Skip to main content

Full text of "Latin Literature"

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on Hbrary shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http : //books . google . com/| 



Latin Literature 

J? Wf M 







A History of Latin literature was to have been written 
for this series of Manuals by the late Professor William 
Sellar. After his death I was asked, as one of his old 
pupils, to carry out the work which he had undertaken; 
and this book is now offered as a last tribute to the 
memory of my dear friend and master. 

J. W. M. 


^ 19603!^ 






L Origins of Latin Literature: Early Enc and 

Andronictts and Naevius — Ennius — Pacuvius — Decay 

of Tragedy 3 

n. Comedy: Plautus and Terence. 

Origins of Comedy — Plautus — Terence • • . 14 

III. Early Prose: The **Satura," or Mixed Mode. 

The Early Jurists — Cato — The Sdpionic Circle — Lu- 
dlius — Pre-Qceronian Prose 27 

IV. Lucretius 39 

V. Lyric Poetry: Catullus. 

Cinna and Calvus ••••••••52 

VI. Cicero 62 

VIL Prose of the Ciceronian Age: Caesar and Sallust. 

Caesar — Caesar's Officers — Sallust — Nepos and Varro 

— Publilius Syms 78 



I. ViRcaL • • 91 

n. Horace 106 


viii Contents, 

III. Profertius and the Elegists. 

Augustan Tragedy — Gallus — Propertius — Tibullus . 120 

IV. Ovm. 
Julia and Sulpicia — Ovid 132 

V. LiVY 145 

VI. The Lesser Augustans. 

Minor Augustan Poetry — Manilius — Phaedrus — Tro- 
gus and Paterculus — Celsus — The Elder Seneca . 156 



" I. The Rome of Nero : Seneca, Lucan, Petronius. 

Seneca — Lucan — Persius — Columella — Petronius . 171 

n. The Silver Age: Statius, the Elder Pliny, Mar- 

Statins — Silius Italicus — Martial — The Elder Pliny 

— Quintilian 186 

m. Tacitus 205 

IV. Juvenal, the Younger Pliny, Suetonius: Decay of 
Classical Latin. 

Juvenal — The Younger Pliny -^ Suetonius — Aulus 
Gellius 221 

V. The " Elocutio Novella." 

Fronto — Apuleius — The Pervigilium Veneris . . 233 

VI. Early Latin Christianity: Minucius Feux, Ter- 


Minucius Felix — TertuUian — Cyprian and Lactantius 

— Commodianus — The Empire and the Church. • 247 


VIL The Fourth Century: Ausonius and Claudian. 

Papinian and Ulpian: Samonicus — Tibeiiknus: the 
Augustan History — Ausonius — Gaudian — Pruden- 
tius — Ammianus Marcellinus ..... 260 

Contents. ix 


Vni. The Beginnings of the Middle Ages. 

The End of the Ancient World — First Period — Sec- 
ond and Third Periods — Fourth Period —The World 
after Rome 275 

Index of Authors 287 









To the Romans themselves, as they looked back two 
hundred years later, the begmnmgs of a real literature 
seemed definitely fixed in the generation which passed 
between the first and second Punic wars. The peace of 
B.C. 241 closed an epoch throughout which the Roman 
Republic had been fighting for an assured place in the 
group of powers which controlled the Mediterranean world. 
This was now gained; and the pressure of Carthage thus ' 
removed, Rome was left free to follow the natural ex- 
pansion of her colonies and her commerce. Wealth and 
peace are comparative terms; it was in such wealth and 
peace as the cessation of the long and exhausting war with 
Carthage brought, that a leisured class began to form itself 
at Rome, which not only could take a certain interest in 
Greek literature, but felt in an indistinct way that it was 
their duty, as representing one of the great civilised powers, 
to have a substantial national culture of their own. 

That this new Latin literature must be based on that 
of Greece, went without saying; it was almost equally 
inevitable that its earliest forms should be in the shape of 
translations from that body of Greek poetry, epic and 
dramatic, which had for long established itself through all 
th'. Ore .k-apeaking world as a common basis of culture. 

3 • 

4 Latin Literature. [I. 

Latin literature, though artificial in a fuller sense than that 
of some other nations, did not escape the general law of 
all literatures, that they must begin by verse before they 
can go on to prose. 

Up to this date, native Latin poetry had been confined, 
so far as we can judge, to hymns and ballads, both of a 
rude nature. Alongside of these were the popular festival- 
performances, containing the germs of a drama. If the 
words of these performances were ever written down (which 
is rather more than doubtful), they would help to make 
the notion of translating a regular Greek play come more 
easily. But the first certain Latin translation was a piece 
of work which showed a much greater audacity, and which 
in fact, though this did not appear till long afterwards, was 
much more far-reaching in its consequences. This was 
a translation of the Odyssey into Satumian verse by one 
Andronicus, a Greek prisoner of war from Tarentum, who 
lived at Rome as a tutor to children of the governing class 
during the first Punic War. At the capture of his city, he 
had become the slave of one of the distinguished family 
of the Livii, and after his manumission was known, accord- 
ing to Roman custom, under the name of Lucius Livius 

The few fragments of his Odyssey which survive do not 
show any high level of attainment ; and it is interesting to 
note that this first attempt to create a mould for Latin 
poetry went on wrong, or, perhaps it would be truer to say, 
on premature lines. From this time henceforth the whole 
serious production of Latin poetry for centuries was a 
continuous effort to master and adapt Greek structure and 
versification ; the Odyssey of Livius was the first and, with 
one notable exception, almost the last sustained attempt 
to use the native forms of Italian rhythm towards any 
large achievement ; this current thereafter sets underground, 
and only emerges again at the end of the classical period. 
It is a curious and significant &ct that the attemot, such 

I.] Andronicus atid Naevius, j 

as it was, was made not by a native, but by a naturalised 

The heroic hexameter was, of course, a metre much 
harder to reproduce in Latin than the trochaic and iambic 
metres of the Greek drama, the former of which especially 
accommodated itself without difficulty to Italian speech. 
In his dramatic pieces, which included both tragedies and 
comedies, Andronicus seems to have kept to the Greek 
measures, and in this he was foDowed by his successors. 
Throughout the next two generations the production of 
dramatic literature was steady and continuous. Gnaeus 
Naevius, the first native Latin poet of consequence, 
beginning to produce plays a few years later than Andro- 
nicus, continued to write busily till after the end of the 
second Punic War, and left the Latin drama thoroughly 
established. Only inconsiderable fragments of his writings 
survive ; but it is certain that he was a figure of really great 
distinction. Though not a man of birth himself, he had 
the skill and courage to match himself against the great 
house of the Metelli. The Metelli, it is true, won the 
battle ; Naevius was imprisoned,- and finally died in exile ; 
but he had established literature as a real force in Rome. 
Aiilus Gellius has preserved the splendid and haughty 
verses which he wrote to be engraved on his own tomb — 

Immortales mortaks si foret fas flere 
Fkrent divae Camenae Naevium poetam ; 
Itaque postquam est Orci tradiius ihesauro 
Obliti sunt Romai loquier lingua Latina. 

The Latin Muses were, ipdeed, then in the full pride and 
hope of a vigorous and daring youth. The greater part of 
Naevius' plays, both in tragedy and comedy, were, it is 
trae, translated or adapted from Greek originals; but 
alongside of these, — the Danae^ the Iphigenia, the Andro- 
machef which even his masculine genius can hardly have 
made more tSam pal9 reflexes of Euripides — were new 

•• • 

6 Latin Literature. [I. 

creations, " plays of the purple stripe," as they came to be 
called, where he wakened a tragic note from the legendary 
or actual history of the Roman race. His Alimonium 
Romuli et Remi, though it may have borrowed much from 
the kindred Greek legends of Danae or Melanippe, was 
one of the foundation-stones of a new national literature ; 
in the tragedy of Clastidiuniy the scene was laid in his own 
days, and the action turned on one of the great victories 
won by those very Metelli whom, in a single stinging line, 
he afterwards held up to the ridicule of the nation. 

In his advanced years, Naevius took a step of even 
greater consequence. Turning from tragedy to epic, he 
did not now, like Andronicus, translate from the Greek, 
but launched out on the new venture of a Roman epic 
The Latin language was not yet ductile enough to catch 
the cadences of the noble Greek hexameter ; and the native 
Latin Satumian was the only possible alternative. How 
far he was successful in giving modulation or harmony to 
this rather cumbrous and monotonous verse, the few extant 
fragments of the Bellum Punicum hardly enable us to 
determine; it is certain that it met with a great and 
continued success, and that, even in Horace's time, it was 
universally read. The subject was not unhappily chosen : 
the long struggle between Rome and Carthage had, in the 
great issues involved, as well as in its aboimding dramatic 
incidents and thrilling fluctuations of fortune, many elements 
of the heroic, and almost of the superhuman; and in his 
interweaving of this great pageant of history with the 
ancient legends of both cities, and his connecting it, through 
the story of Aeneas, with the war of Troy itself, Naevius 
showed a constructive power of a very high order. It is, 
doubtless, possible to make too much of the sweeping 
statements made in the comments of Macrobius and Servius 
on the earlier parts of the ^4?»^/^^ '' this passage is all 
taken from Naevius ; " " all this passage is simply conveyed 
from Naevius* Punic IVarJ* Yet there is no doubt that 

I.] Ennius, 7 

Virgil owed him immense obligations ; though in the details 
of the war itself we can recognise little in the fragments 
beyond the dry and disconnected narrative of the rhyming 
chronicler. Naevius laid the foundation of the Roman 
epifij, he left it at his death — in spite of the despondent 
and perhaps jealous criticism which he left as his epitaph — 
in the hands qf an abler and more illustrious successor. 
^ Qiuintus Ennius, the first of the great Roman poets, and 
a figure of prodigious literary fecundity and versatility, was 
bom at a small town of Calabria about thirty years later 
than Naevius, and, though he served as a young man in the 
Roman army, did not obtain the full citizenship till fifteen 
years after Naevius* death. For some years previously he 
had lived at Rome, under the patronage of the great Scipio 
Africanus, busily occupied in keeping up a supply of 
translations from the Greek for use on the Roman stage. 
The easier circumstances of his later life do not seem to 
have in any way diminished his fertility or the care which 
he lavished on the practice of his art. He was the first 
instance irf the Western world of the pure man of letters. 
Alongside of his strictly literary production, he occupied 
himself, diligently with the technique of composition — 
grammar, spelling, pronunciation, metre, even an elementary 
system of shorthand. Four books of miscellaneous transla- 
tions from popular Greek authors familiarised the reading 
public at Rome with several branches of general literature 
hitherto only known to scholars. Following the demand 
of the market, he translated comedies, seemingly with 
indifferent success. But his permanent fame rested on two 
great bodies of work, tragic and epic, in both of which he 
far eclipsed his predecessors. 

We possess the names, and a considerable body of frag- 
ments, of upwards of twenty of his tragedies ; the greater 
number of the fragments being preserved in the works of 
Cicero, who was never tired of reading and quoting him. 
As is usual with such quotations, they throw light more on 

8 Latin Literature. ' [I. 

his mastery of phrase and power of presenting detached 
thoughts, than on his more strictly dramatic quahties. 
That masteiy-jQf .phrase is astonishing. From the silver 
beauty of the moonUt line from his Melanippe — 

Lumine sic tremulo terra et cava caerula candent, 

to the thimderous oath of Achilles — 

Per ego deum sublitnas subices 
UmidaSy unde oritur imber sonitu saevo et spiritu 

they give examples of almost the whole range of beauty 
of which the Latin language is capable. Two quotations 
may show his manner as a translator. The first is a frag- 
ment of question and reply from the splendid prologue 
to the Iphigenia at Aulis^ one of the most thrilling and 
romantic passages in Attic poetry — 

Agam. Quid noetic videtur in altisono 

Caeli clupeo? 
Senex. Temo superat 

Cogens sublime etiam atque etiam 

Noctis iter. 

What is singular here is not that the mere words are 
wholly different from those of the original, but that in the 
apparently random variation Ennius produces exactly the 
same strange and solemn effi^ct. This is no accident: it 
is genius. Again, as a specimen of his manner in more 
ordinary narrative speeches, we may take the prologue to 
his Medeay where the well-known Greek is pretty closely 
followed — 

Utinam ne in nemore Pelio securibus 
Caesa cecidisset abiegna ad terram trcUfes^ 
Neve inde navis inchoandae exordium 
Coepisset, quae nunc nominatur nomine 
ArgOf quia Argivi in ea dilecti viri 

I.] Ennius, 9 

VecH petehant pellem inauratam arietis 

Colchis y imperio regis Peliae^ per dolum : 

Nam nunquatn era errans tnea domo ecferret pedem 

Medea, animo aegra, amore saevo saucia. 

At first reading these lines may seem rather stiff and 
ungraceful to ears familiar with the liquid lapse of the 
Euripidean iambics; but it is not till after the second or 
even the third reading that one becomes aware in them of 
a strange and austere beauty of rhythm which is distinctively 
Italian. Specially curious and admirable is the use of 
elision, in the eighth, for instance, and even more so in the 
fifth line, so characteristic alike of ancient and modem 
Italy. In Latin poetry Virgil was its last and greatest 
master ; its gradual disuse in post-Virgilian poetry, like its 
absence in the earlier hexameters of Cicero, was fatal to the 
music of the verse, and with its reappearance in the early 
Italian poetry of the Middle Ages that music once more 

It was in hh later years, and after long practice in many 
literary forms, that Ennius wrote his great historical epic, 
th^ eighteen books of AnnaleSy in which he recorded the 
legendary and actual history of the Roman State from the 
arrival of Aeneas in Italy down to the events of his own day. 
The way here had been shown him by Naevius ; but in the 
interval, chiefly owing to Ennius' own genius and industry, 
the literary capabilities of the language had made a very 
great advance. It is uncertain whether Ennius made 
any attempt to develop the native metres, which in his pre- 
decessor's work were still rude and harsh ; if he did, he must 
soon have abandoned it. Instead, he threw himself on the 
task of moulding the Latifi language to the movement of 
the-splendid Greek hexameter ; his success in the enterprise 
was so conclusive that the question between the two forms 
was never again raised. The Annales at once became a 
classic j until dislodged by the Aeneidy they remained th^ 

lo Latin Literature, [L 

foremost and representative Roman poem, and even in the 
centuries which followed, they continued to be read and 
admired, and their claim to the first eminence was still 
supported by many partisans. The sane and lucid judgment 
of Quintilian recalls them to their true place ; in a felicitous 
simile he compares them to some sacred grove of aged oaks, 
which strikes the senses with a solemn awe rather than with 
the charm of beauty. Cicero, who again and again speaks 
of Ennius in terms of the highest praise, admits that defect 
of finish on which the Augustan poets lay strong but not 
unjustified stress. The noble tribute of Lucretius, " as our 
Ennius sang in immortal verse, he who first brought ddwn * 
from lovely Helicon a garland of evergreen leaf to sound 
and shine throughout the nations of Italy," was no less than 
due firom a poet who owed so much to Ennius in manner 
and versification. 

It is not known when the Annates were lost ; there are 
doubtful indications of their existence in the earlier Middle 
Ages. The extant fragments, though they amount only to 
a few hundrec^ lines, are sufficient to give a clear idea of the 
poet's style and versification, and of the remarkable breadth 
and sagacity which made the poem a storehouse of civil 
wisdom for the more cultured members of the ruling classes 
at Rome, no less than a treasury of rhythm and phrase for 
the poets. In the famous single lines like — 



Non cauponantes beUum sed belligerantes^ 
Quern nemo ferro potuit superare nee auroy 

Itle vir hand magna cum re sed ptenu^ fidei, 
or the great — ^ 

Moribus antiquis res stat Romana virisque 

Ennius expressed, with even greater point and weight 
than Virgil himself, the haughty virtue, the keen and 

I.] Pacuvius,- II 

narrow political instinct, by which the small and struggling 
mid-Italian town grew to be arbitress of the world ; _n ot 
Lucretius wjth his vast and melancholy outlook over a 
world where patriotism did not exist for the philosopher, 
not Virgil with his deep and charmed broodings over the 
mystery and beauty of life and death, struck the Roman 
note so exclusively and so certainly. 

The success of the Latin epic in Ennius' hands was 
indeed for the period so complete that it left no room for 
further development ; for the next hundred years t*he Annales 
remained not only the unique, but the satisfying achievement 
in this kind of poetry, and it was only when a new wave of 
Greek influence had brought with it a higher and more 
refined standard of literary culture, that fresh progress could 
be attained or desired. It was not so with tragedy. So 
long as the stage demanded fresh material, it continued to 
be supplied, and the supply only ceased when, as had 
happened even in Greece, the acted drama dwindled away 
before the gaudier methods of the music-hall. Marcus 
Pacuvius, the nephew of Ennius, wrote plays for the thirty 
years after his uncle's death, which had an even greater 
vogue; he is placed by Cicero at the head^pfJRoman 
tragedians. The plays have all perished, and even the 
fragments are lamentably few ; we can still trace in them, 
however, the copiousness of fancy and richness of phrase 
which was marked as his distinctive quality by the great 
critic Varro. Only one Roman play (on Lucius Aemilius 
Paulus, the conqueror of Pydna *) is mentioned among his 
pieces; and this, though perh^ accidental, may indicate 
that tragedy had not really pushed its roots deep enough 
at Rome, and was destined to an early decay. Inexhaustible 
as is the life and beauty of the old Greek mythology, it was 

* One of the great speeches in this play was probably made use of 
by Livy in his account of the address of Paulus to the people after his 
triumph in 167 B.C., which has. again been turned into noble tragic 
verse by Fita^gerald, Literary Remains ^ vol. ii. p. 483. 

12 Latin Literature, [l. 

impossible that a Roman audience should be content to 
listen for age after age to the stories of Atalanta and 
Antiope, Pentheus and Orestes, while they had a new 
national life and overwhelming native interests of their 
own. The Greek tragedy tended more and more to 
become the merely literary survival that it was in France 
under Louis Quatorze, that it has been in our own day , 
in the hands of Mr. Arnold or Mr. Swinburne. But one 
more poet of remarkable genius carries on its history into 
the next age. 

Lucius Accius of Pisaurum produced one of his early 
pla)rs in the year 140 B.C., on the same occasion when one 
of his latest was produced by Pacuvius, then an old man of 
eighty. Accius reached a like age himself; Cicero as a 
young man knew him well, and used to relate incidents of 
the aged poet's earlier Ufe which he had heard from his own 
lips. For the greater part of the fifty years which include 
Sulla and the Gracchi, Accius was the recognised literary- 
master at Rome, president of the college of poets which 
held its meetings in the temple of Minerva on the Aventine, 
and associating on terms of full equality with the most 
distinguished statesman. A doubtful tradition mentions 
him as having also written an epic, or at least a narrative 
poem, caUed AnnaleSy like that of Ennius ; but this in all 
likelihood is a distorted reflection of the fact that he 
handed down and developed the great literary tradition left 
by his predecessor. The volume of his dramatic work was 
very great ; the titles are preserved of no less than foity-five 
tragedies. In general estimation he brought Roman tragedy 
to its highest point The fragments show a grace and 
fancy which we can hardly trace in the earlier tragedians. 

Accius was the last, as he seems to have been tl^e 
greatest, of his race. Tragedy indeed continued, as we 
shall see, to be written and even to be acted. The literary 
men of the Ciceronian and Augustan age published their 
plays as a matter of course; Varius was coupled by his 

I.] Decay of Tragedy. 13 

contemporaries with Virgil and Horace ; and the lost Medea 
of Ovid, like the never-finished Ajc^ of Augustus, would be 
at tEe least a highly interesting literary document. But the 
new age found fresh poetical forms into which it could put 
its best thought and art ; while a blow was struck directly 
at the roots of tragedy by the new invention, in the hands 
of Cicero and his contemporaries, of a grave, impassioned, 
and stately prose. 


gomedy: plautus and terence. 

Great as was the place occupied in the culture of the 
Greek world by Homer and the Attic tragedians, the 
Middle and New Comedy, as they culminated in Menander, 
exercised an even wider and more pervasive influence. 
A vast gap lay between the third and fifth centuries before 
Christ. Aeschylus, and even Sophocles, had become ancient 
literature in the age immediately following their own. 
Euripides, indeed, continued for centuries after his death 
to be a vital force of immense moment ; but this force he 
owed to the qualities in him that make his tragedy transgress 
the formal limits of the art, to pass into the wider sphere of 
the human comedy, with its tears and laughter, its sentiment 
and passions. From him to Menander is in truth but a 
step ; but this step was of such importance that it was the 
comedian who became the Shakespeare of Greece. Omnem 
vUae imaginem expressit are the words deliberately used of 
him by the greatest of Roman critics. 

When, therefore, the impulse towards a national literature 
began to be felt at Rome, comedy took its place side by 
side with tragedy and epic as part of the Greek secret that 
had to be studied and mastered ; and this came the more 
naturally that a sort of comedy in rude but definite forms 
was already native and familiar. Dramatic improvisations 
were^ from an immemorial antiquity, a regular feature of 


n.] "^ Origins of Comedy. 1 5 

Italian festivals. They were classed under different heads, 
which cannot be sharply distinguished. The Satura seems 
to have been peculiarly Latin; probably it did not differ 
deeply or essentially from the two other leading types that 
arose north and south of Latium, and were named from the 
little country towns of Fescennium in Etruria, and Atella 
in Campania. But these rude performances hardly rose 
to the rank of literature ; and here, as elsewhere, the first 
literary standard was set by laborious translations from the 

We find, accordingly, that the earlier masters — Andronicus, 
Naevius, Ennius — all wrote comedies as well as tragedies, 
of the type known as pal liata^ ox " dressed in the Greek 
mantle," that is to say, freely translated or adapted from 
Greek originals. After Ennius, this still continued to be the 
more usual type; but the development of technical skill 
now results in two important changes. The writers of 
comedy become, on the whole and broadly speaking, 
distinct from the writers of tragedy ; and alongside of the 
paUiata springs up the togata^ or comedy of Italian dress, 
persons, and manners. 

As this latter form of Latin comedy has perished, with 
the exception of trifling fragments, it may be dismissed here 
in few words. Its life was comprised in less than a century, 
i/l'i^iius, the first of the writers of th&fabula togata of whom 
we have any certain information, was a contemporary 
of Terence and the younger Scipio ; a string of names, 
which are names and nothing more, carries us down to 
the latest and most celebrated of the list, Lucius Afranius.^ 
His middle-class comedies achieved a large and a long- 
continued popularity; we hear of performances of them 
being given even a hundred years after his death, and 
Horace speaks with gentle sarcasm of the enthusiasts who 
put him on a level with Menander. With his contemporary 
Qoinctius Atta (who died b.c. 77, in the year of the abortive 
revolution after the death of Sulla), he owed much of his 

l6 Latin Literature. [L 

success to the admirable acting of Rosd as, who created a 
stage tradition that lasted long after his own time. To 
the mass of the people^ comedy (though it did not err in 
the direction of over-refinement) seemed tame by com- 
parison with the shows and pageants showered on them 
by the ruling class as the price of their suffrages. As in 
other ages and countries, ^hionable society followed the 
mob. The young man about town, so familiar to us from 
the brilliant sketches of Ovid, accompanies his mistress, not 
to comedies of manners, but to the more exciting spectacles 
of flesh and blood offered by the ballet-dancers and the 
gladiators. Thus the small class who occupied themselves 
with literature had little counteracting influence pressed on 
them to keep them from the fatal habit of perpetually 
copying from the Greek; and adaptations from the Attic 
New Comedy, which had been inevitable and proper enough 
as the earlier essays of a tentative dramatic art, remained 
the staple of an art which thus cut itself definitely away 
from nature. 

That we possess, in a fairly complete form, the works of 
two of the most celebrated of these playwrights, and of their 
many cpnteihporaries and successors nothing but trifling 
fragments, is due to a chance or a series of chances which 
we cannot follow, and from which we must not draw too 
precise conclusions. Flautus was the earliest, and apparently 
the most voluminous, of the writers who devoted themselves 
wholly to comedy. Between him and Terence a generation 
intervenes, filled by another comedian, Caeciliug, whose 
works were said to unite much of the special excellences 
of both ; while after the death of Terence his work was 
continued on the same lines by Turpilius and others, and 
dwindled away little by little into the~arly Empire. But 
there can be no doubt that Pjautus-jand^JTerence fully 
represent the strength and weakness^of the Latin paUiata. 
Together with the eleven plays, they $iave 
been in fact, since -the beginning of the Middle Ages^ the 


II.] Plautus. 17 

sole representatives of ancient, and the sole ' models of 
modem comedy. 

TituS-.Macdtts Plautus was bom of poor parents, in the 
little Umbrian town of Sarsiy a^ in the yea r^254 b .c, thus 
falling midway in* age between Naevius and Ennius. Some- 
how or other he drifted to the capital, to find employment 
as a stage-carpenter. He altem ated his playwriting with 
the hardest manual drudgery ; and though the inexhaustible 
animal spirits which show themselves in his writing explain 
how he was able to combine extraordinary literary fertility 
with a life of difficulty and poverty, it must remain a mystery 
how and when he picked up his education, and his surprising 
Tnagtcfy Qf tl^^ JaHt^ lanprna pe both in metre and dicti on. 
Of the one hundred and thirty comedies attributed to him, 
two-thirds were rejected as spurious by Varro, and only 
twenty-one ranked as certainly genuine. These last are 
extant, with the exception of one, called The Carpet-Bag^ 
which was lost in the Middle Ages ; some of them, however, 
exist, and probably existed in Varro's time, only in abridged 
or mutilated stage copies. 

The constructive power shown in these pieces is, of course, 
less that of Plautus himself than of his Greek originals, 
PhHeinra, Diphilus, and Menander. But we do not want 
modem instances to assureHs that, in adapting a play from 
one language to another, merely to keep the plot unimpaired 
implies more than ordinary qualities of skill or conscientious- 
ness. When Plautus is at his best — in the Aulularia, 
Bacchides, or Rudens, and most notably in the Caj^^n — 
he has seldom been improved upon either in the interest 
of his action or in the copiousness and vivacity of his 

Over and above his easy mastery of language, Plautus 
has a further claim to distinction in the wide range of his 
manner. Whether he ever went beyond Tlie New Comedy 
of Athens for his ori^nals, is uncertain ; but within it he 
rangeslreely over the whole ^Id^ and" the twenty extant 

l8 Latin Literature, [I. 

plays include specimens of almost every kind of play to 
which the name of comedy can be extended. The first 
on the list, the famous AmphitruOy irThe only surviving 
specimen of the^burlesque. The^reeks called this kind of 

'^^^^^ *^ vpiece IXoporpa^wSta — a term for which tragedie-bojdfe would 
be the nearest modem equivalent; tragico-comoedia is the 
name by which Plautus himself describes it in the prologue. 
The Amphitruo remains, even now, one of the most masterly 
specimens of this kind. The version of Moli^re, in which 
he did little by way of improvement on his original, has 
given it fresh currency as a classic; but the French play 
gives but an imperfect idea of the spirit and flexibility of 
the dialogue in Plautus' hands. ^ 

Of a very different type is the piece which comes neit*Tflle 
Atnphrituo in acknowledged excellence, the Captivi. It is 
a comedy of sentiment, without female characters, and 
therefore" without the coarseness which (as one is forced to 

'^' ^^ say with regret) disfigures some of the other plays. The 
development of the plot has won high praise from all critics, 
and justifies the boast of the epilogue, Huiusmodi paucas 
poetae reperiunt comoedias. But the praise which the author 
gives to his own piece — 

Non pertractate facta est neque item ut ceterae, 
Neque spurcidici insunt versus immemorabiles^ 
Hie neque periurus leno est nee tneretrix mala 
Neque miles gloriosus — 

is really a severe condemnation of two other groups of 
Plautine plays. The Casina and the Truculentus (the 
latter, as we know from Cicero, a special favourite with its 
author) are studies in pornography which only the unflagging 
animal spirits of the poet can redeem from being disgust- 
ing ; and the Asinaria, Curculio, and Miles Gloriosus are 
broad farces with .the thinnest thread of plot. The last 
depends wholly on the somewhat forced and exaggerated 
character of the title-role ; as the Fseudolus, a piece with 

II.] Plautus, 19 

lather more substance, does mainly on its perturus lenoy 
Ballio, a character who reminds one of Falstaff in his entire 
shamelessness and inexhaustible vocabulary. 

A diflferent vein, the domestic comedy of middle-class 
life, is opened in one of the most quietly successful of 
his pieces, the TrinummuSy or Threepenny-bit In spite of 
all the characters being rather fatiguingly virtuous in their 
sentiments, it is full of liveliness, and not without graceful- 
ness and charm. After the riotous scenes of the lighter 
plays, it is something of a comfort to return to the good 
sense and good feeling of respectable people. It forms an 
interesting contrast to the Bacchides, a play which returns 
to the world of the bawd and harlot, but with a brilliance 
of intrigue and execution that makes it rank high among 

Two other plays are remarkable from the fact that, 
though neither in construction nor in workmanship do they 
rise beyond mediocrity, the leading motive of the plot in 
one case and the principal character in the other are in- 
ventions of unusual felicity. The Greek original of both 
is unknown; but to it, no doubt, rather than to Plautus 
himself, we are bound to ascribe the credit of the Aulularia 
and Menaechmi. The Aulularia, or Pot^ Gold, a common- 
place story of middle-class life, is a mere framework for the 
portrait of the old miser, Euclio — in itself a sketch full of 
life and brilliance, and still more famous as the original 
of Moli^re*s Harpagon, which is closely studied from it. 
The Menaechmi, or Comedy of Errors, without any great 
ingenuity of plot or distinction of character, rests securely 
on the inexhaustible opportunities of humour opened up 
by the happy invention of the twin-brothers who had lost 
sight of one another from early childhood, and the con- 
fusions that arise when they both find themselves in the 
same town. 

There is yet one more of the Plautine comedies which 
deserves special notice, as conceived in a different vein 

TO Latin Literature, [L 

and worked oat in a difierent tone from all diose ahcadj 
mentioned — the channing romantic comedj cs^tARudtns^ 
or The Cable ^ thoag|i a more fitting name for it woaM be 
The Tempest, Though not pitched in the sentimental key 
of the Captivif it has a higher, and, in Latin fiteiatnrey 
a rarer, note. Bjr a happj chance, perhaps, rather than 
fiom any omronted effort of skiD, this translation of the 
play of Diphilus has brought with it something of the miiqae 
and nnmistakeable Greek atmosphere — the atmosphere dL 
the Odyssey^ of the fisher-idyl of Theocritos, of the hundreds 
of Httle poems in the Greek Anthology that bear clinging 
abont their verses the fiunt mmmtir and odour of the sea. 
The scene is laid near Gyrene, on the strange rich African 
coast; the prologue is spoken, not by a character in the 
piece, nor by a decently clothed abstraction like the figures 
of Luxury and Poverty which speak the prologue of the 
TrinummuSj but by the star Aijpturus, watcher and tempest- 

Qui gentes omnes, mariaque et terras nufvet, 
Eius SUM civis cwitate caeUtum; 
Ita sum ut videtis, splendens stella Candida^ 
Signum quod semper tempore exoritur sua 
Hie atque in caelo ; nomen Arcturo est mihi, 
Noctu sum in caelo clarus atque inter decs ; 
Inter mortales ambulo interdius. 

The romantic note struck in these opening lines is con- 
tinued throughout the comedy, in which, by little touches 
here and there, the scene is kept constantly before us of 
the rocky shore in the strong brilliant sun after the storm 
of the night, the temple with its kindly priestess, and the 
red-tiled country-house by the reeds of the lagoon, with the 
solitary pastures behind it dotted over with fennel. Now 
and again one is reminded of the Winter^ s Tale, with fisher- 
men instead of shepherds for the subordinate characters ; 

IL] Plautus. 21 

more frequently of a play which, indeed, has borrowed a 
good deal from this, Pericks Prince of Tyre. 

The remainder of the Plautine plays may be dismissed 
with scant notice. They comprise three variations on the 
theme which, to modem taste, has become so excessively 
tedious, of the Fourberies de Scapin — the Epidicus, Mostel- 
laria, and Persa; the Poenulus, a dull play, which owes its 
only interest to the passages in it written in the Carthaginian 
language, which ofifer a tempting field for the conjectures 
of the philologist ; two more, the Mercator and Stichus, of 
confused plot and insipid dialogue ; and a mutilated frag- 
ment of the Cisteliaria, or Travelling- Trunk, which would 
not have been missed had it shared the fate of the Carpet- 

The humour of one age is often mere weariness to the 
next ; and farcical comedy is, of all the forms of literature, 
perhaps the least adapted for permanence. It would be 
affectation to claim that Plautus is nowadays widely read 
outside o f the inner cir ct ^ of schola rs : and there he is read 
almost wholly on account of his unusual fertility and interest 
as a field of l inguistic study . Yet he must always remain 
one of the great outstanding influences jn_ literary history . 
The strange fate which has left nothing but inconsiderable 
fragments out of the immense volume of the later Athenian 
Comedy, raised Plautus to a position co-ordinate witlT that 
of Aristophanes as a model for the reviving literature of 
modem Europe ; for such part of that literature (by much 
the more important) as did not go b eyond Latin for its 
inspiration, Plautus was a source of unig ug, and capital 
vahie, in his own branch of literature equivalent to Cicero 
or Virgil in theirs. 

Plautus oiittived the seco nd Punic Wa r, during which, 
as we gather fi-om prefaces and allusions, a number of the 
extant plays wer e produc ed. Soon after the final collapse 
of the Carthaginian po wer at Zama ^ a chil3" was bom 
at •Carthage^ >?rbo^ a few years later, in the course of 


22 Latin Literature, [L 

oneiplained vicissitudes, reached Rome as a boy-sLave, and 
passed there into the possession of a rich and educated 
senator, Terentius Lucanus. The boy showed some un- 
usual turn for books; he was educated and manumitted 
by his master, and took from him the name of Publius 
Terentius the African. A small literary circle of the Roman 
aristocracy — men too high in rank to need to be carefld 
what company they kept — admitted young Terence to their 
intimate companionship ; and soon he was widely known as 
making a third in the friendship of Gaius ^LaeUi is with the 
first citizen of the Republic, the younger Scipio African us. 
This society, an informal academy of letters, devoted all its 
energies to the purification and improvement of _^ Latin 
language. The rough drafts of the Terentian c619Bl!dies were 
read out to them, and the language and style criticised in 
minute detail ; gossip even said that they were largely written 
by Scipio's own hand, and Terence himself, as is not siu:- 
prising, never took pains to deny the rumour. Six plajrs 
had been subjected to this elaborate coriection and pro- 
duced on the Roman stage, when Terence undertook a 
prolonged visit to Greece for the purpose of frirther study. 
He died of fever the next year — by one account, at a village 
in Arcadia; by another, when on his voyage home. The 
six comedies had already taken the place which they have 
ever since retained as Latin classics. 

The Terentian comedy is in a way the tiuning-point of 
Roman literature. Plautus and Ennius, however largely 
they drew from Greek originals, threw into all thei^;j5[ork 
a manner and a spirit which were essenti^^ tho se of__ a 
new literature in the full tide of growth. The imitation of 
Greek models was a means, not an end ; in both pogte the 
Greek manner is continually abandoned for essays into a 
new manner of their own, and they relapse upon it when 
their imperfectly mastered powers of invention or expres- 
sion give way under them. In the circle of Terence^the. 
fatal doctrine was originated that the Greek manner was 



11.] Terence, 2$ 

an end in itself, and that the road to perfection lay, not in 
developing any original qualities, but in reproducing with 
laborious fidelity the accents of another language and 
civilisation. Nature took a swift and certain revenge. 
Correctness of sentiment and smooth elegance of diction 
became the standards of excellence ; and Latin literature, 
still mainly confined to the governing class and their 
dependents, was struck at the root (the word is used of 
Terence himself by Varro) with the fatal disease of 

But in Terence himself (as in Addison among English 
writers) this mediocrity is, indeed, golden — a mediocrity 
fifil of grace and charm. The unruffled smoothness of 
diction, the exquisite purity of language, are qualities 
admirable in themselves, and are accompanied by~^other 
striking merits ; not, indeed, by dramatic forc& OLconstruc- 
tive power, but by careful and delicate portraiture of 
character, and by an urbanity (to use a Latin word which 
expresses a peculiarly Latin qual ity) to which the world 
owes a deep debt for having set a fashion. In some curious 
lines preserved by Suetonius, Julius Caesar expresses a 
criticism, which we shairimd it hard to improve, on the 
"halved Menander," to whom his own fastidious purity 
in the use of language, no less than his tact and courtesy 
as a man of the world, attracted him strongly,* while not 
blinding him to the weakness and flaccidity of the Terentian 
drama. Its effect on contemporary men of letters was 
immediate and irresistible. A story is told, bearing all 
the marks of truth, oTthe young poet when he submitted 
his first play, The Maid of Andros, for the approval of^he 
Commissioners_of Public Works, who were responsible for 
the production of plays at the civic festivals. He was 
ordered to read it aloud to Caecilius, who, since the death 
of Flautus, had been supreme without a rival on the comic 
stage. Terence presented himself modestly while 'Caecilius 
was at supper, and was carelessly told to sit down on a stool 

24 Latin LiUrature, [1. 

Id the dhung-rooniy and begin. He had not read bejond 
a feir Terses when CaecOias stopped hhn, and made him 
take a seat at table. After sapper was cnrer, he heard 
Ins guest's play oat with onboonded and nnqnaHfied 

Bat this admiration of the literary class did not make tl^ 
refoed conventional art of Terence sacces5M~for its im- 
mediate purposes on the stage: he was caviare to the 
general. Five of the six plays were produced at tke 
spring festival of the Mother of the Gods — an occasion 
when the theatre had not to face the competition of the 
circas; yet even then it was only by immense efforts on 
the part of the management that they succeeded in attract- 
ing an audience. The M0ther:jnjMw{m>Xy it is true, a play 
which shows the author at his best) was twice produced as 
a dead failure. The third'time it was pulled through by 
extraordinary effortson the part of the acting-manager, 
Ambivius-.'Jurpio. The^rologue written by Terence fori 
this third perfohnance is one of the most curious literary 
documents of the time. He is too angry to extenuate the 
repeated failure of |iis play. If we believe him, it fell dead 
the first time because ^^ tha t foo l, the public," were all 
excitement over an exhibition on the tigEt-rope which was 
to follow the ^ay ; at the second representation only one 
act had been gone through, when a rumour spread that 
"there were going to be gladiators^ elsewhere, and in five 
minutes the theatre was empty. 

The Terentian prologues (Ihey are attached to all his 

pla3r8) are indeed all very interesting from the light they 
throw on the character of the author, as well as on the ideas 
and fashions of his age. In all of liiem there is a certain 
hard and acrid purism that cloaks in modest phrases an 
immense contempt for all that lies beyond the'writerjs^own 
canqps of taste. In hac est pura oratiOy a phrase of the 
prologue to The Self -Tormentor /\% the implied burden of 
them all. He is a sort of literary Robespierre ; one seems 

II.] Terence, 25 

to catch the premonitory echo of well-known phrases, 
"degenerate condition of literary spirit, backsliding on 
this hand and on that, I, Terence, alone l eft incor ruptible/' 
Three times there is a reference to Plautus, and always 
with a tone of chilly superiority which is too proud to 
break into an open sneer. Yet among ihese haughty and 
frigid manifestoes some felicity of phrase or of sentiment 
will suddenly remind us that here, after all, we are dealing 
with one of the great formative intelligences of literature ; 
where, for instanceTuT the prologue to the lively and witty 
comedy of The Eu nuch, the famous line — 

NuUutnst jam dictum quod noffi'dlil^um sit prius — 

drops with the same easy negligence as in the opening 
dialogue of The Self-Tormentor, the immortal — 

Homo sum : humani nihil a me alienum puto —^ 

falls from the hps of the old farmer. Congreve alone of 
English playwrights has this glittering" smoothness, this 
inimitable ease ; if we remember what Dryden, in language 
too splendid to be insincere, wrote of his young friend, we 
may imagine, perhaps, how CaeciHus and his circle regarded 
Terence. Nor is it hard to believe that, had Terence, like 
Congreve, lived into an easy and honoured old age, he 
would still have rested his reputation on these productions 
of nis early youth. Both dramatists had from the first 
seen clearly and precisely what they had in view, and had 
almost at the first stroke attained it : the very completeness 
of the success must in both cases have precluded the dis- 
satisfaction through which fresh advances could alone be 

This, too, is one reason, thcftigh certainly not the only 
one, why, with the death of Terence, the development of 
Latin comedy at once ceased. His successors are mere 
shadowy names. Any life that remained in the art took 


26 Latin Literature. [I. 

the channel of the fiarces which, for a hnndied 3^eais more, 
retained a genuine popularity, but which never took rank 
as literature of serious value. Even this, ihcfabula taber- 
naria, or comedy of low life, gradually melted away before 
the continuous competition of the shows which so moved 
the spleen of Terence — the pantomimists, the jugglers, the 
gladiators. By this time, too, the literary instinct was 
beginning to explore fresh channels. Not only was prose 
hecp minp ^ year bv yf ar mr^r e copious and flexible, but the 
mixed mode, fluctuating between prosT'aud vcise, to which 
the Romans gave the name of satire, was in process of 
invention. Like the novel as compared with the play at 
the present time, it offered great and obvious advantages 
in ease and variety of manipulation, and in the simplicity 
and inexpensiveness with which, not depending on the 
stated performances of a public theatre, it could be pro- 
duced and circulated. But before proceeding to consider 
this new literary invention more fully, it wiU be well to 
pause in order to gather up, as its necessary complement, 
the general lines on which Latin prose was now developing, 
whether in response to the influence of Greek models, or 
in the course of a more native and independent growth. 



Law and government were the two great achievement s of 
the La firfface ; and the two fountain-heads of Latin prose 
are, on the one hand, the texts of codes and_the comixien- 
taries,^>fjunsts : on the other, the _ann als of the inner con- 
stitution and the external conquests and^ diplomacy of 
Rome. The beginnings of both went further back than 
Latin antiquaries could trace them. Out of the mists of 
a legendary antiquity two fixed ""points rise, behind which 
it is needless or impossiBle to goT"* The code known as 
that of the Twelve Tables, of which large fragments survive 
in later law-books, was^rawn up, according to the accepted 
chronology, in the year 450 b.c. Sixty years later the sack jdjQ 
of Rome by the Gauls led to the destruction of nearly all 
public and private records, and it was only from this date 
onwards that such permanent and contemporary registers — 
the consi dar J^asH^ the books of the pontifical college, the 
public collections of engraved laws and treaties — were 
extant as could afford material for the annalist. That a 
certain amount of work in The field both of law and history 
must have been going on at Rome from a very early period, 
is, of course, obvious ; but it was not till the time of the 
Punic Wars that anything was produced in either field which 
could very well be classed as literature. 

In history as in poetry, the first steps were timidly made 



28 Latin Literature. [I. 

with the help of Greek models. The oldest and most 
important of the early historians, Quintus Eabius_JKctor, 
the contemporary of Naevius and Enn ius, actually wrote in 
Greek, though a Latin version of his work certainly existed, 
whether executed by himself or some other hand is doubtful, 
at an almost contemporary date. Extracts are quoted from 
it by the grammarians as specimens of the language of the 
period. The scope of his history was broadly t he sa me as 
that of the two great contem£oiary_poets. It was a narra- 
tive of events starting from the legendary landing of Aeneas 
in Italy, becoming more copious as it advanced, and dealing 
with the events of the author's own time at great length 
and from abundant actual knowledge. The work ended, so 
far as can be judged, with the close of the second Punic 
War. It long remained the great quany-iGF~«ubs£Quent 
historians . Polybius undertook his own great work from 
dissatisfaction with Pi ctor's p rejudice and in accura cy ; and 
he is one of the chief authorities followed in the^ea^er 
decads of Livy. A younger contemporary of Pjctor, 
Lucius Cincius Alimentus, who commanded a Roman army 
iiTthe war~against Hannibal, also used the Greek language 
in his annals of his own life and times, and the same ap- 
pears to be the case with the memoirs of other soldiers 
and statesmen of the period. It is only half a century later 
that we know certainly of historians who wrote in Latin. 
The earliest of them, L ucius Cassius He mina, composed 
his annals in the period between thedeatlToM^erence and 
the revolution of the Gracchi; a more disHnguEKed suc- 
cessor, Lu cius Calpurnius Piso Frugi, is better known as 
one of the leading opponents of the revolution (he was con- 
sul in the year of the tribuneship of Tiberius Gracchus) 
than as the author of annals which were"certainly written 
with candour and simplicity, and in a style where the epi- 
thets " artless and elegant," used of them by Aulus Gellius, 
need not be inconsistent with the more disparaging word 
** meagre," with which they are dismissed by Cicero. 

^^^F^'- " I f l_ lV'mi?**'^" 

III.] The Early Jurists, 29 

History might be written in Greek — as, indeed, through- 
out the Republican and Imperial times it continued to be 
-T^ by any Roman who was sufficiently conversant with that 
language, in which models for every style of historical 
composition were ready to his hand. In the province of 
jurisprudence it was different^ Tfcre the Latin race owed 
nothing to any foreig n in fluence or example; and the 
development of Roman laW^ufsiied a straightforward and 
uninterrupted course far beyond the limits of the classical 
period, and after Rome itself had ceased to be the seat 
even of a divided empire. The earliest juristic writings, 
consisting of commentaries on collections of the semi-reli- 
gious enactments, jn which po sitive l aw b egan, are attributed 
to the period of ^the Samnite WarSyTong before Rome had 
become a great Medit erran eaH^power. About 200 b.c. 
two brothers, Publius and^ ggytus Aelius^ both citizens of 
consular and censorial rank, published a systematic treatise 
called Triperti^y which was long afterwards held in re- 
verence as containing the ^mabula^iiris, the cradle out 
of which the vast systems of lat ^ages jp rang. Fifty years 
later, in the circle of the younger^Scipio, begins the illus- 
trious line of theMucii Scaevolae. Three members of this 
family, each a distinguished jui?st, rose to the consulate in 
the stormy half-century between the Gracchi and Sulla. 
The last and greatest of the three represented the ideal 
Roman more nearly than any other citizen of his time. 
The most eloquent of jurists and the most learned of 
orators, he was at the same time a brilliant administrator 
and a paragon of public and jpnyate-Adrjue ; and his murder 
at the altar jofJVesta, in the Marian proscrip tion^ was uni- 
versally thought the^most dreadful event of an age of 
h orrors. His voluminous and exhaustive treatise .u^n Civil 
Law renlained a text-book for centuries, and was a founda- 
tion for the writings of all lateiJRoman jurists. 

The combination of juriscoSult anSTorator in the younger 
Scaevola was somewhat rare ; from an early period the two 

^O Latin Literature. (1. 

professions of jurist and pleader were sharply distinguished, 
though both were pathways to the highest civic offices. 
Neither his father nor his cousin (the other two of tHe^t nad) 
was distinguished in oratory; nor were the two great 
contemporaries of the former, who both published standard 
works on civil law, Man ius Man ilius and M argus Jup ius 
Brutus. The highest field for oratory was, of course, in 
the politica l, and not in die purely tegal, sphere ; and the 
unique Rbman constitution, an oligar chy c hosen almost 
wholly by popular suffi^age, made the practice of oratory 
more or less of a necessity to ^every politician. Well- 
established tradition ascribed to the greatest statesman of 
the earlier Republic, Appiu s, Claudius Caecu s. the first 
institution of written oratory. His famous speech in the 
senate against peace with Fyrrhus was cherished in Cicero's 
time as one of the most precious literary treasu res of R ome. 
From his time downwards the stream of writ ten ora tory 
flowed, at first in a slender stream, which gathered to a 
larger volume in the works of the elder Cato. 

In the history of the half-century foUowmg the war with 
Hannibal, Cato is certainly the most striking single^^figufe. 
It is only as a man of letters that he has to be noticed here ; 
and the character of a man of letters was, perhaps, the last 
in which he would have i wished to be remembered or 
\ praised. Yet the cynical* and indomitable old man, with 
his rough humour, his narrow statesmanship, his obstinate 
ultra-conse^atism, not only produced aTlarge quantity of 
writings, but founded and transmitted to posterity a distinct 
and important body of critical dogma and literary tradition. 
The influence of Greece had, as we have alfelRiy^-^een, 
begun to permeate the educat ed classes at Rome through 
and through. Agahist this Greek influence, alike in liter- 
ature and in manners, Cato struggled all his life with the 
whole force of his powerful intellect and mordant wit; 
yet it is most characteristic of the man that in his old £^e 
he learned Greek himse lf, and read deeply in the master- 

III.] Cato. 31 

pieces of that Greek literature from which he was too 
honest and too intellig^jatto be able to withhold his 
admiration. While much oT^ntemporary literature was 
launcHmg itself on the fatal course of imitation of Greek 
models, and was forcing the Latin language into the 
trammels of alien forms, Cato gave it a powerful impulse 
towards a pure ly na tive, if a somewhat narrow and harsh 
development. The na tional prose^ jilyrajiirp, of which he 
may fairly be called the founder, was kept up till the decay 
of Rome by a large and powerful minority of Latin writers. 
What results it might have produced, if allowed unchecked 
scope, can only be matter for conjecture; in the main 
current of Latin literature the Greek influence was, on the 
whole, triumphant ; Cato's was the losing side (if one may 
so adapt the famous line of Lucan), and the men of genius 
took the other. 

The speeches of Cato, of which upwards of a hundred 
and fifty were extant in Cicero's time, and which the 
virtuosi of the age of Hadrian preferred, or professed to 
prefer, to Cicero's own, are lost, with the exception of 
inconsiderable fi-agments. The fragments show high ora- 
torical gifts; shrewdness, humour, terse vigour and con- 
trolled passion ; " somewhat confused and harsh," says a 
late but competent Latin critic, " but strong and vivid as 
it is possible for oratory to be." We have suffered a 
heavier loss in his seven books of Origines, the work of his 
old age. This may broadly be called ai^jiistorical work, 
but it was history treated in a style of great latitude, the 
meagre, disconnected method of the annalists alternating 
with digressions into all kinds of subjects — geography, 
ethnography, reminiscences of his own travels and ex- 
periences, and the politics and social life of his own and 
earlier times. It made no attempt to keep up either the 
dignity or the continuity of history. His absence of method 
made this work, however full of interest, the despair of 
later historians : what were they to think, they plaintively 

32 Latin Literature. [I. 

asked, of an author who dismissed whole campaigns without 
even giving the names of the generals, while he went into 
profuse detail over one of the war-elephants in the Car- 
thaginian army? 

The only work of Cato*s which has been preserved in its 
integrity is that variously known under the titles De Re 
Rustica or De Agri Cultura, It is one of a number of treatises 
of a severely didactic nature, which he published on various 
subjects — agricultural, sanitary, military, and legal. This 
treatise was primarily written for a friend who owned and 
cultivated farms in Campania. It consists of a series of 
terse and pointed directions following one on another, 
with no attempt at style or literary artifice, but full of a 
hard sagacity, and with occasional flashes of dry humour, 
which suggest that Cato would have found a not wholly 
uncongenial spirit in President Lincoln. A brief extract 
from one of the earlier chapters is not without interest, 
both as showing the practical Latin style, and as giving the 
prose groundwork of Virgil's stately and beautiful embroidery 
in the Georgics, 

Opera omnia mature conficias face. Nam res rustica sic 
est; si unam rem serofeceris, omnia opera sero fades. Stra- 
menta si deerunt frondem iligneam legito ; earn substernito 
ovibus bubusque. Sterquilinium magjium stude ut habeas, 
Stercus sedulo conserva^ cum exportabis spargito et commin- 
uito ; per autumnum eve hi to. Circum okas autumnitate 
ablaqueato et stercus addito. Frondem populneam, uimeam, 
querneam caeditOy per tempus cam condito, non peraridam^ 
pabulum ovibus. Item foenum cordum, sicilamenta de prato ; 
ea arida condito. Post imbrem autumni rapinam^ pabulum^ 
lupinumque serito. 

To the Virgilian student, every sentence here is full of 

In his partial yielding, towards the end of a long and 
imcompromising life, to the rising tide of Greek influence, 
Cato was probably moved to a large degree by his personal 

III.] The Scipionic Circle, 33 

admiration for the younger Scipio, whom he hailed as the 
single great personality among younger statesmen, and to 
whom he paid (strangely enough, in a line quoted from 
Homer) what is probably the most splendid compliment 
ever paid by one statesman to another. Scipio was the 
centre of a school which included nearly the whole literary 
impulse of his time. He was himself a distinguished orator 
and a fine scholar ; after the conquest of Perseus, the royal 
library was the share of the spoils of Macedonia which he 
chose for himself, and bequeathed to his family. His 
celebrated fiiend, Gains Laelius, known in Rome as " the 
Wise," was not only an orator, but a philosopher, or deeply 
read, at all events, in the philosophy of Greece. Another 
member of the circle, Lucius Furius Philus, initiated that 
connection of Roman law with the Stoic philosophy which 
continued ever after to be so intimate and so far-reaching. 
In this circle, too, Roman history began to be written in 
Latin. Cassius Hemina and Lucius Calpurnius Piso have 
been already mentioned; more intimately connected with 
Scipio are Gains Fannius, the son-in-law of Laelius, and 
Lucius Caelius Antipater, who reached, both in lucid and 
copious diction and in impartiality and research, a higher 
level than Roman history had yet attained. Literary 
culture became part of the ordinary equipment of a states- 
man ; a crowd of Greek teachers, foremost among them the 
eminent philosopher, afterwards Master of the Portico, 
Panaetius of Rhodes, spread among the Roman upper 
classes the refining and illuminating influence of Greek 
ideas and Attic style. 

Meanwhile, in this Scipionic circle, a new figure had 
appeared of great originality and force, the founder of a 
kind of literature which, with justifiable pride, the Romans 
claimed as wholly native and original. Gaius Lucilius was 
a member of a wealthy equestrian family, and thus could 
associate on equal terms with the aristocracy, while he was 
removed from the necessity, which members of the great 

34 Latin Literature. [I. 

senatorial! houses could hardly avoid, of giving the best 
of their time and strength to political and administrative 
duties. After Terence, he is the most distinguished and 
the most important in his literary influence ^ among the 
friends of Scipio. The form of Uterature which he invented 
and popularised, that of familiar poetry, was one which 
proved singularly suited to the Latin genius. He speaks 
of his own works under the name of Sermones, " talks " — 
a name which was retained by his great successor, Horace ; 
but the peculiar combination of metrical form with wide 
range of subject and the pedestrian style of ordinary prose, 
received in popular usage the name Satura, or " mixture." 
The word had, in earlier times, been used of the irregu- 
lar stage performances, including songs, stories, and semi- 
dramatic interludes, which formed the repertory of strolling 
artists at popular festivals. The extension of the name to 
the verse of Lucilius indicates that written Uterature was 
now rising to equal importance and popularity with the 
spoken word. 

Horace comments, not without severity, on the profuse 
and careless production of Lucilius. Of the thirty books 
of his Satires, few fragments of any length survive ; much, 
probably the greater part of them, would, if extant, long 
have lost its interest. But the loss of the bulk of his work 
is a matter of sincere regret, because it undoubtedly gave a 
vivid and detailed picture of the social life and the current 
interests of the time, such as the Satires of Horace give of 
Rome in the Augustan age. His criticisms on the public 
men of his day were outspoken and unsparing ; nor had he 
more reverence for established reputations in poetry than 
in public life. A great deal of his work consisted in descrip- 
tions of eating and drinking ; much, also, in lively accounts 
of his own travels and adventures, or those of his friends. 
One book of the Satires was occupied with an account of 
Scipio's famous mission to the East, in which he visited the 
courts of Egypt and Asia, attended by a retinue of only 

III.] Lucilius. 35 

five servants, but armed with the full power of the terrible 
Republic. Another imitated by Horace in his story of the 
journey to Brundusium, detailed the petty adventures, the 
talk and laughter by roads and at inns, of an excursion of 
his own through Campania and Bruttium to the Sicilian 
straits. Many of the fragments deal with the literary con- 
troversies of the time, going down even to the minutiae of 
spelling and grammar; many more show the beginnings 
of that translation into the language of common life of the 
precepts of the Greek schools, which was consummated for 
the world by the poets and prose-writers of the following 
century. But, above all, the Satires of Lucilius were in the 
fullest sense of the word an autobiography. The famous 
description of Horace, made yet more famous for English 
readers by the exquisite aptness with which Bos well placed 
it on the title-page of his Life of Johnson — 

Quo fit ut omnis 
Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella 
Vita senis — 

expresses the true greatness of Lucilius. He invented a 
literary method which, without being great, yields to no 
other in interest and even in charm, and which, for its per- 
fection, requires a rare and refined genius. Not Horace 
only, nor all the satirists after Horace, but Montaigne and 
Pepjrs also, belong to the school of Lucilius. 

Such was the circle of the younger Scipio, formed in 
the happy years — as they seemed to the backward gaze of 
the succeeding generation — between the establishment of 
Roman supremacy at the battle of Pydna, and the revolu- 
tionary movement of Tiberius Gracchus. Fifty years of 
stormy turbulence followed, culminating in the Social War 
and the reign of terror under Marius and Cinna, and finally 
stilled in seas of blood by the counter-revolution of Sulla. 
This is the period which separates the Scipionic from the 

y6 Latin Literature. p. 

Ciceronian age. It was naturally, except in the single pro- 
vince of political oratory, not one of great literary fertility ; 
and a brief indication of the most notable authors of the 
period, and of the lines on which Roman literature mainly 
continued to advance during it, is all that is demanded or 
possible here. 

In oratory, this period by general consent represented 
the golden age of Latin achievement. The eloquence of 
both Jhe Gracchi was their great political weapon ; that of 
Gains was the most powerful in exciting feeling that had 
ever been known ; his death was mourned, even by fierce 
political opponents, as a heavy loss to Latin literature. But 
in the next generation, the literary perfection of oratory 
was carried to an even higher point by Marcus Antonius 
and Lucius Licinius Crassus. Both attained the highest 
honours that the Republic had to bestow. By a happy 
chance, their styles were exactly complementary to one 
another; to hear both in one day was the highest in- 
tellectual entertainment which Rome afforded. By this 
time the rules of oratory were carefully studied and reduced 
to scientific treatises. One of these^ the work of an other- 
wise imknown Comificius, is still extant. It owes its 
Y preservation to an erroneous tradition which ascribed it to 
X the pen of Cicero, and regarded it as an earlier draft of 
his treatise De Invention, That treatise goes over much the 
same ground, and is often verbally copied from the earlier 
work, of which it was, in fact, a mew edition revised and 
largely rewritten. 

Latin history during this period made considerable 
progress. It was a common practice among statesmen to 
write memoirs of their own life and times; among others 
of less note, Sulla the dictator left at his death twenty-two 
books of Commentarii Rcrum Gestarum, which were after- 
wards' published by his secretary. In regular history the 
most important name is that of Quintus Claudius Quadri- 
garius. His work differed from those of the earlier annalists 


III.] Pre-Ciccronian Prose, 37 

in passing over the legendary period, and beginning with 
the earliest authentic documents; in research and critical 
judgment it reached a point only excelled by Sallust. His 
style was formed on that of older annalists, and is therefore 
somewhat archaic for the period. Considerable fragments, 
including the well-known description of the single combat 
in 361 B.C. between Titus Manlius Torquatus and the 
Gallic chief, survive in quotations by Autus Gellius and the 
archaists of the later Empire. More voluminous but less 
valuable than the Annals of Claudius were those of his 
contemporary, Valerius Antias, which formed the main 
groundwork for the earlier books of Livy, and were largely 
used by him even for later periods, when more trust- 
worthy authorities were available. Other historians of this 
period, Sisenna and Macer, soon fell into neglect — the 
former as too archaic, the latter as too diffuse and rhetorical, 
for literary permanence. 

Somewhat apart from the historical writers stand the 
antiquarians, who wrote during this period in large numbers, 
and whose treatises filled the library from which, in the 
age of Cicero, Varro compiled his monumental works. As 
numerous probably were the writers of the school of Cato, 
on husbandry, domestic economy, and other practical 
subjects, and the grammarians and philologists, whose 
works formed two other large sections in Varro's library. 
On all sides prose was full of life and growth ; the complete 
literary perfection of the age of Cicero, Caesar, and . Sallust 
might already be foreseen as within the grasp of the near 

Latin poetry, meanwhile, hung in the balance. The first 
great wave df the Greek impulse had exhausted itself in 
Ennius and the later tragedians. Prose had so developed 
that the poetical form was no longer a necessity for the 
expression of ideas, as it had been in the palmy days of 
Latin tragedy. The poetry of the future must be, so to 
speak, poetry for its own sake, until some new tradition 

38 Latin Literature. p 

were formed which should make certain metrical forms 
once more the recognised and traxiitional vehicle for certain 
kinds of hterary expression. In the blank of poetry we 
may note a translation of the Iliad into hexameters by one 
Gnaeus Matins^ an4 the earliest known attempts at imitation 
of the forms of Greek lyrical verse by an equally obscure 
Laevius Melissus, as dim premonitions of the new growth 
which Latin poetry was feeling after; but neither these, 
nor the literary tragedies which still were occasionally pro- 
duced by a survival of the fashions of an earlier age, are 
of any account for their own sake. Prose and poetry stood 
at the two opposite poles of their cycle; and thus it is 
that, while the poets and prose-writers of the Ciceronian 
age are equally imperishable in fame, the latter but repre- 
sent the culmination of a broad and harmonious develop- 
ment, while of the former, amidst but apart from the 
beginnings of a new literary era, there shine, splendid like 
stars out of the darkness, the two immortal lights of 
Lucretius and Catullus. 

o c 



The age of Cicero, a term familiar to all readers as indi- 
cating one of the culminating periods of literary history, 
while its central and later years are accurately fixed, may 
be dated in its commencement from varying limits. Cicero 
was born in 1 06 . B.C., the year of the final conquest of 
Jugurtha, and the year before the terrible Cimbrian disaster 
at Orange : he perished in the proscription of the trium- 
virate in December, 43 B.C. His first appearance in public 
life was during the dictatorship of Sulla ; and either from 
this date, or from one ten years later when the Sullan con- 
stitution was re-established in a modified form by Pompeius 
and Crassus in their first consulate, the Ciceronian age 
extends over a space which approximates in the one case 
to thirty, in the other to forty years. No period in ancient, 
and few in comparatively modem history are so pregnant 
with interest or so fully and intimately known. From the 
comparative obscurity of the earlier age we pass into a 
full blaze of daylight. It is hardly an exaggeration to say 
that the Rome of Cicero is as familiar to modern English 
readers as the London of Queen Anne, to readers in 


modem France as the Paris of Louis Quatorze. We can 
still follow with unabated interest the daily fluctuations of 
its politics, the current gossip and scandal of its society, 
the passing ^hions of domestic life as revealed in private 


40 Latin Literature. P- 


correspondence or the disclosures of the law courts. Yet 
in the very centre of this brilliantly lighted world, one of 
its most remarkable figures is veiled in almost complete 
darkness. The great poem of Lucretius, O n the_ Nature of 
Things, though it not only revealed a profound and extraor- 
dinary genius, but marked an entirely new technical level 
in Latin poetry, stole into the world all but imnoticed ; and 
of its author's life, though a pure Roman of one of the great 
governing families, only one or two doubtM and isolated 
facts could be recovered by the curiosity of later commen- 
tators. The single sentence in St. Jerome's Chronicle 
which practically sums up the whole of our information 
runs as follows, under the year 94 B.C. : — 

Tiius Lucretius poeta nctscitury postea atnatorio poculo in 
furorem versus cum aliquot libros per intervalla insaniae 
conscripsisset quos postea Cicero emendavity propria se manu 
interfecit anno cutatis xUiii. 

Brief and straightforward as the sentence is, every clause 
in it has given rise to volumes of controversy. Was 
Lucretius bom in the year named, or is another tradition 
correct, which, connecting his death with a particular event 
in the youth of Virgil, makes him either be bom a few years 
earlier or die a few years younger? Did he ever, whether 
from a poisonous philtre or otherwise, lose his reason? and 
can a poem which ranks among the great masterpieces of 
genius have been built up into its stately fabric — for this is 
not a question of brief lyrics like those of Smart or Cowper 
— in the lucid intervals of insanity? Did Cicero have any- 
thing to do with the editing of the unfinished poem? If 
so, which Cicero — Marcus or Quintus ? and why, in either 
case, is there no record of the fact in their correspondence, 
or in any writing of the period? All these questions are 
probably insoluble, and the notice of Jerome leaves the 
whole life and personality of the poet stiU completely 
hidden. Yet we have little or nothing else to go upon. 
There is one brief and casual allusion in one of Cicero's 

Lucretius. 41 

letters of the year 54 b.c. : yet it speaks of " poems," not 
the single great poem which we know; and most editors 
agree that the text of the passage is corrupt, and must be 
amended by the insertion of a noity though they differ on 
the important detail of the particular clause in which it 
should be inserted. That the earlier Augustan poets should 
leave their great predecessor completely unnoticed is less 
remarkable, for it may be taken as merely a part of that 
curious conspiracy of silence regarding the writers of the 
Ciceronian age which, whether under political pressure 
or not, they all adopted. Even Ovid, never ungenerous 
though not always discriminating in his praise, dismisses 
him in a list of Latin poets with a single couplet of vague 
eulogy. In the reactionary circles of the Empire, Lucretius 
found recognition ; but the critics who, according to Tacitus, 
ranked him above Virgil may be reasonably suspected of 
doing so more from caprice than from rational conviction. 
Had the poem itself perished (and all the extant manu- 
scripts are copies of a single original), no one would have 
thought that such a preference could be anything but a 
piece of antiquarian pedantry, like the revival, in the same 
period, of the plays of the early tragedians. But the fortu- 
nate and slender chance which has preserved it shows that 
their opinion, whether right or wrong, is one which at all 
events is neither absurd nor unarguable. For in the De 
Rerum Natura we are brought face to face not only with an 
extraordinary literary achievement, but with a mind whose 
profound and brilliant genius has only of late years, and 
with the modem advance of physical and historical science, 
been adequately recognised. 

The earliest Greek impulse in Latin poetry had long been 
exhausted ; and the fashion among the new generation was 
to admire and study beyond all else the Greek poets of the 
decadence, who are generally, and without any substantial 
injustice, lumped together by the name of the Alexandrian 
sdiooL The common quality in all this poetry was it& 

42 Latin Literature. [I. 

great Jieaming^ «nd-4ts^iemQteaess. .&Dm_jiature. It was 
poetry written in a library ; it viewed the world through a 
highly coloured medium of literary and artistic tradition. 
The laborious perfectness of execution which the taste of 
the time demanded was, as a rule, lavished on little subject^ 
patient carvings in ivory. One branch of the Alexandrian 
school which was largely followed was that of the didactic 
poets — Aratus, Nicander, Euphorion, and a host of others 
less celebrated. Cicero, in mature life, speaks with some 
contempt of the taste for Euphorion among his contempo- 
raries. But he had himself, as a young man, followed the 
fashion, and translated the Phaenomena of Aratus into won- 
derfully polished and melodious hexameter verse. 

Not unaffected by this fashion of the day, but turning 
from it to older and nobler model^— 'Homer and Empe- 
docles in Greek, Enniusdnr Latin — Lucretius conceived the 
imposing scheme of a didacticpoem dealing with the whole 
field of life and nature as interpreted by the Epicurean 
pbilosaphy. He lived to carry out his work almost to com- 
pletion. It here and there wants the final touches of 
arrangement ; one or two discussions are promised and not 
given ; some paragraphs are repeated, and others have not 
been worked into their proper place ; but substantially, as in 
the case of the Aeneid^ we have the complete poem before 
us, and know perfectly within what limits it might have been 
altered or improved by fiiller revision. 

As pure literature, the Nature of Things has all the 
defects inseparable from a didactic poem, that unstable com- 
bination of discordant elements, and from a poem which is 
not only didactic, but argumentative, and in parts highly 
controversial. Nor are these difficulties in the least degree 
evaded or smoothed over by the poet. As a teacher, he is 
in deadly earnest ; as a controversialist, his first object is to 
refute and convince. The graces of poetry are never for a 
moment allowed to interfere with the fuU development of 
an argument. Much of the poem is a chain of intricate 

IV.] Lucretius. 43 

reasoning hammered into verse by sheer force of hand. The 
ardent imagination of the poet struggles through masses of 
intractable material which no genius could wholly fuse into 
a pure metal that could take perfect form. His language, 
in the fine prologue to the fourth book of the poem, shows 
his attitude toward^ his art very clearly. 

Avia Pieridum peragro loca nuUius ante 
Trita solo ; iuvat integros accedere fontes 
Atque haurire^ iuvatque novos decerpere flores 
Insignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam 
Unde prius nuUi velarint tempora Musae : 
Primum quod magnis doceo de rebus, etartis 
ReUgionutn animum nodis exsolvere pergOy \ 

Deinde quod obscura de re tarn lucidapango 
Carmina, musaeo contingens cuncta iepore. 

The joy and glory of his art come second in his mind to his 
passionate love of- truth, and the deep moral purport of 
what he believes to be the one true message for mankind. 
The human race lies fettered by superstition and ignorance ; 
his mission is to dispel their darkness by that light of truth 
which is " clearer than the beams of the sun or the shining 
shafts of day." Spinoza has been called, in a bold figure, " a 
man drunk with God ; " the contemplation of the " nature 
of things," the physical structure of the universe, and the 
living and all but impersonate law which forms and sustains 
it, has the same intoxicating influence over Lucretius. 
God and man are alike to him bubbles on the ceaseless 
stream of existence ; ^et they do not therefore, as they 
have so often done in other philosophies, fade away to 
a spectral thinness. His contemplation of existence is no 
brooding over abstractions ; Nature is not in his view the 
majestic and silent figure before whose unchanging eyes 
the shifting shadow-shapes go and come; but an essen- 
tial life^ manifesting itself in a million workings, creatrix^ 

44 Latin Literature. [I. 

gubemans, daedala rerum. The universe is filled through all 
its illimitable spaces by the roar of her working, the cease- 
less unexhausted energy with which she alternates life. and 

'o'our own age the Epicurean philosophy has a double 
interest. Not only was it a philosophy of life and conduct, 
but, in the effort to place life and conduct under ascertain- 
able physical laws, it was led to frame an extremely detailed 
and ingenious body of natural philosophy, which, partly 
from being based on really sound postulates, partly from 
a happy instinct in connecting phenomena, still remains 
interesting and valuable. To the Epicureans, indeed, as 
to all ancient thinkers, the scientific method as it is now 
understood was unknown ; and a series of unverified gen- 
eralisations, however brilliant and acute, is not the true 
\ way towards knowledge. But it still remains an astonishing 
\ fact that many of the most important physical discoveries 
of modern times are hinted at or even expressly stated by 
Lucretius. The general outlines of the^atoniic__dQClI^e 
have long been accepted as in the main true; in all im- 
portant features it is superior to any other physical theory 
of the universe which existed up to the seventeenth century. 
In his theory of light Lucreti«s>jg^.Jn^4idvance of. Newton. 
In his theory of chemical afiinities (for he describes the 
thing though the nomenclature was unknown to him) he 
was in advance of Lavoisier. In his theory of the ultimate 
constitution of the atom he is in striking agreement with the 
views of the ablest living physicists. The essential fimction 
of science — to reduce apparently disparate phenomena to 
the expressions of a single law — is not with him the object 
of a moment's doubt or uncertainty. 

Towards real progress in knowledge two things are alike 
indispensable : a true scientific method, iind . imaginative 
insight. The former is, in the main, a creation of the 
modem world, nor was Lucretius here in advance of his 
age. But in the latter quality he is unsurpassed, if not 

I I mm^^^sfmSS^^^ni 

IV.] Lucretius. 45 

unequalled. Perhaps this is even clearer in another field 
of science, that which has within the last generation risen 
to such immense proportions under the name of anthropplo^ 
Thirty years ago it was the first and second books of the 
De Rerum Natura which excited the greatest enthusiasm in 
the scientific world. Now that the atomic theory has passed 
into the rank of received doctrines, the brilliant sketch, given 
in the fifth book, of the beginnings of life upon the earth, 
the evolution of man and the progress of human society, is 
the portion of the poem in which his scientific imagination 
is displayed most astonishingly. A Roman aristocrat, living 
among a highly cultivated society, Lucretius had been yet 
endowed by nature with the primitive instincts of the savage. 
He sees the ordinary processes of everyday Hfe — weaving, 
carpentry, metal-working, even such specialised forms of 
manual art as the polishing of the s urface of marble — with 
the fresh eye of one who sees them all for the first time. 
Nothing is to him indistinct through famiharity. In virtue 
of this absolute clearness of vision it costs him no effort to 
throw himself back into prehistoric conditions and the 
wild life of the earliest men. Even further than this he 
can pierce the strange recesses of the past. Before his 
imagination the earth rises swathed in tropical forests, 
and all strange forms of life issuing and jostling one 
another for existence in the steaming warmth of per- 
petual summer. Among a thousand types that flowered 
and fell, the feeble form of primitive man is distinguished, 
without fire, without clothing, without articulate speech. 
Through the midnight of the woods, shivering yat the cries 
of the stealthy-footed prowlers of the darkness, he crouches 
huddled in fallen leaves, waiting for the rose of dawn. Little 
by little the prospect clears round him. The branches of 
great trees, grinding one against another in the windy 
forest, break into a strange red flower ; he gathers it and 
hoards it in his cave. There, when wind and rain beat 
without, the hearth-fire burns through the winter, and round 

46 Latin Literature. [I. 

it gathers that other marvellous invention of which the 
hearth-fire became the mysterious symbol, the family. 
From this point the race is on the full current of progress, 
of which the remainder of the book gives an account as 
essentially true as it is incomparably briUiant. If we 
consider how little Lucre|ius had to go upon ia.Jhis> 
reconstruction of lost history, his imaginative insight seems 
almost miraculous. Even for the later stages of human 
progress he had to rely mainly pji- the eye which saw deep 
below the surface into the elementary structure of civilisation. 
There was no savage life within the scope of his actual 
observation. Books wavered between traditions of an 
impossible golden age and fragments of primitive legend 
which were then quite unintelligible, and are only now 
giving up their secret under a rigorous analysis. Further 
back, and beyond the rude civilisation of the earlier 
races of Greece and Italy, data wholly failed. We have 
supplemented, but hardly given more life to, his picture of 
the first beginnings, by evidence drawn from a thousand 
sources then unknown or unexplored — from coal-measures 
and mud-deposits, Pictish barrows and lacustrine midden- 
steads, remote tribes of hidden Africa and islands of the 
Pacific Sea. 

Such are the characteristics which, to one or another 
epoch of modem times, give the poem of Lucretius so 
unique an interest. But for these as for all ages, its per- 
manent value must He mainly in more universal qualities. 
History and physical science alike are in all poetry ancillary 
to ideas. It is in his moral temper, his profound insight 
into life, that Lucretius rises to ffiie greatest heights of 
thought and the utmost perfection of language. The 
Epicurean philosophy, in his hands, takes all- the moral 
fervour, the ennobling influence of a religion. The 
depth of his religious instinct may be measured by the 
passion of his antagonism to what he regarded as 
superstition. Human life in his eyes was made wretched, 


IV.] Lucretius. 47 

mean, and cruel by one great cause — the fear of death and 
of what happens after it. That death is not to be feared, 
.that nothing happens after it, is the keystone of his whole 
system. It is after an accumulation of seventeen proofs, 
hurled one upon another at the reader, of the mortality of 
the soul, that, letting himself loose at the highest emotional 
and imaginative tension, he breaks into that wonderful 
passage, which Virgil himself never equalled, and which in 
its lofty passion, its piercing tenderness, the stately roll of 
its cadences, is perhaps unmatched in human speech. 

" Jam iam non domus accipiet te laeta^ neque uxor 
Optima^ nee dulces occurrent oscula nati 
Praeripere et tacita pectus dulcedine tangent: 
Non poteris factis florentibus esse, tuisque 
Praesidium: misero misere^^ aiunt, ^^ omnia ademit 
Una dies infesta Ubi totpraemia vitae ..." 

" * Now no more shall a glad home and a true wife welcome 
thee, nor darling children race to snatch thy first kisses and 
touch thy heart with a sweet and silent content ; no more 
mayest thou be prosperous in thy doings and a defence to 
thine own : alas and woe ! ' say they, * one disastrous day 
has taken all these prizes of thy life away from thee * — but 
thereat they do not add this, * and now no more does any 
longing for these things beset thee.* This did their thought 
but clearly see and their speech follow, they would release 
themselves from great heartache and fear. ' Thou, indeed, 
as thou art sunk in the sleep of death, wilt so be for the 
rest of the ages, severed from all weary pains; but we, 
while close by us thou didst turn ashen on the awful pyre, 
made unappeasable lamentation, and everlastingly shall 
time never rid our heart of anguish.' Ask we then this of 
him, what there is that is so very bitter, if sleep and peace 
be the conclusion of the matter, to make one fade away in 
never-ending grief? 

''Thus too men often do when, set at the feast, they hold 

48 Latin Literature. p. 

their cups and shade their faces with garlands, saying sadly, 
* Brief is this joy for wretched men ; soon will it have been, 
and none may ever after recall it ! ' as if this were to be 
first and foremost of the ills of death, that thirst and dry 
burning should waste them miserably, or desire after any- 
thing else beset them. For not even then does any one 
miss himself and his life when soul and body together are 
deep asleep and at rest ; for all we care, such slumber might 
go on for ever, nor does any longing after ourselves touch 
us then, though then those first-beginnings through our 
body swerve away but a very little from the movements that 
bring back the senses when the man starts up and gathers 
himself out of sleep. Far less, therefore, must we think 
death concerns us, if less than nothing there can be ; for a 
greater sundering in the mass of matter follows upon death, 
nor does any one awake and stand, whom the cold stoppage 
of death once has reached. 

" Yet again, were the Nature of things suddenly to utter 
a voice, and thus with her own lips upbraid one of us, 
*What ails thee so, O mortal, to let thyself loose in too 
feeble grievings? why weep and wail at death? for has 
thy past life and overspent been sweet to thee, and not all 
the good thereof, as if poured into a pierced vessel, has 
run through and joylessly perished, why dost thou not retire 
like a banqueter filled with life, and calmly, O fool, take thy 
peaceful sleep? But if all thou hast had is perished and 
spilt, and thy life is hateful, why seekest thou yet to add 
more which shall once again all perish and fall joylessly 
away? why not rather make an end of life and labour? 
for there is nothing more that I can contrive and invent 
for thy delight; all things are the same for ever. Even 
were thy body not yet withered, nor thy limbs weary and 
worn, yet all things remain the same, didst thou go on to 
live all the generations down, nay, even more, wert thou 
never doomed to die ' — what do we answer? " 

It is in passages of which the two hundred lines beginning 


IV.] Lucretius. 49 

thus are the noblest instance, passages of profound and 
majestic broodings over life aAd death, that the long rolling 
weight of the Lucretian hexameter tells with its full force. 
For the golden cadence of poesy we have to wait till Virgil ; 
but the strain that Lucretius breathes through bronze is 
statelier and more sonorous than any other in the stately 
and sonorous Roman speech. Like Naevius a century and 
a half before, he might have left the proud and pathetic 
lines on his tomb that, after he was dead, men forgot to 
speak Latin in Rome. He stands side by side with Julius 
Caesar in the perfect purity of his language. The writing 
of the next age, whether prose or verse, gathered richness 
and beauty from alien sources ; if the poem of Lucretius 
had no other merit, it would be a priceless document as 
a model of the purest Latin idiom in the precise age of its 
perfection. It follows from this that in certain points of 
technique Lucretius was behind his age, or rather, deliberately 
held aloof from the movement of his age towards a more 
intricate and elaborate art. The wave of Alexandrianism 
only touched him distantly; he takes up the Ennian 
tradition where Ennius had left it, and puts into it the 
immensely increased faculty of trained expression which 
a century of continuous literary practice, and his own 
admirably clear and quick intelligence, enable him to 
supply. The only Greek poets mentioned by him are 
Homer and Empedocles. His remoteness from the main 
current of contemporary literature is curiously parallel to 
that of Milton. The Epicurean philosophy was at this 
time, as it never was either earher or later, the predominant 
creed among the ruling class at Rome : but except in so far 
as its shallower aspects gave the motive for Hght verse, it 
was as remote from poetry as the Puritan theology of 
the seventeenth century. In both cases a single poet of 
immense genius was also deeply penetrated with the spirit 
of a creed. In both cases his poetical affinity was with the 
poets of an earlier day, and his poetical manner something 

50 Latin Literature, [L 

absolutely peculiar to himself. Both of them under this 
strangely mixed impulse set themselves to embody their 
creed in a great work of art. But the art did not appeal 
strongly to sectaries, nor the creed to artists. The De 
Rerum Natura and the Paradise Lost, while they exercised 
a profound influence over later poets, came silently into the 
world, and seem to have passed over the heads of their 
immediate contemporaries. There is yet . another point of 
curious resemblance between them. Every student of 
Milton knows that the only English poet from whom he 
systematically borrowed matter and phrase was one of the 
third rate, who now would be almost forgotten but for the 
use Milton made of him. For one imitation of Spenser or 
Shakespeare in the Paradise Lost it would be easy to adduce 
ten — not mere coincidences of matter, but direct trans- 
ferences — of Sylvester's Du^artas. While Lucretius was a 
boy, Cicero publisEedrtKeversion in Latin hexameters of the 
Phaenomena and Prognostica of Aratus to which reference 
has already been made. These poems consist of only 
between eleven and twelve hundred lines in all, but had, 
in the later Alexandrian period, a reputation (like that of 
the Sepmaine of Du Bartas) far in excess of their real 
merit, and were among the most powerful influences in 
founding the new style. The many imitations in I/icretius 
of the extant fragments of these Ciceronian versions show 
that he must have studied their vocabulary and versification 
with minute care. The increased technical possibilities 
shown by them to exist in the Latin hexameter — for in 
them, as in nearly all his permanent work, Cicero was 
mastering the problem of making his own language " an 
adequate vehicle of sustained expression — may even have 
been the determining influence that made Lucretius adopt 
this poetical form. Till then it may have been just possible 
that native metrical forms might still reassert themselves. 
Inscriptions of the last century of the Republic show that 
the satumian still lingered in use side by side with the 




rude popular hexameters which were gradually displacmg 
it ; and the Punic War of Naevius was still a classic. Lu- 
cretius' choice of the hexameter, and his definite conquest 
of it as a medium of the richest and most varied expression, 
placed the matter beyond recall. The technical imperfec- 
tions which remained in it were now reduced within a vis- 
ible compass ; its power to convey sustained argument, to 
express the most delicate shades of meaning, to adjust 
itself to the greatest heights and the subtlest tones of 
emotion, was already acquired when Lucretius handed it on 
to Virgil. And here, too, as well as in the wide field of 
literature with which his fame is more intimately connected, 
from the actual impulse given by his own early work and 
heightened by admiration of his brilliant maturity, even 
more than from the dubious tradition of his editorial care 
after the poet*s death, the glory of the Ciceronian age is in 
close relation to the personal genius of Cicero. 

LTSic poetry: caixjllds. 

Contemporary with Lucretius, but, unlike him, living in 
the full whiii and glare of Roman life, was a group of 
young men who were professed followers of the Alexandrian 
schooL In the thirty years which separate the Civil war 
and tiie Sullan restoration from the sombre period that 
opened with the outbreak of hostflities between Caesar 
and the senate, social life at Rome among the upper classes 
was unusually brilliant and exciting. The outward polish 
of Greek civilisation was for the first time fully mastered, 
and an intelligent interest in art and Uterature was the 
£ishion of good society. The '' young man about town," 
whom we find later fully developed in the poetry of Ovid, 
sprang into existence, but as the government was still in 
the hands of the aristocracy, ^hion and poUtics were 
intimately intermingled, and the lighter Uterature of the 
day touched grave issues on every side. The poems of 
CatuUus are full of references to his friends and his 
enemies among this group of writers. Two of the former, 
Cinna and Calvus, were poets of considerable importance. 
Gains Helvius Cinna — somewhat doubtfully identified with 
the " Cinna the poet " who met such a tragical end at the 
hands of the populace after Caesar's assassination — carried 
the Alexandrian movement to its most uncompromising 
conclusions. His iame (and that frune was very great) 


v.] Cinna and Calvus. 53 

rested on a short poem called Zmyrna, over which he spent 
ten years' labour, and which, by subject and treatment alike, 
carried the Alexandrian method to its furthest excess. In 
its recondite obscurity it outdid Lycophron himself. More 
than one grammarian of the time made a reputation solely 
by a commentary on it. It throws much light on the 
peculiar artistic position of Catullus, to bear in mind that 
this masterpiece of frigid pedantry obtained his warm and 
evidently sincere praise. 

The other member of the triad. Gains Licinius Macer 
Calvus, one of the most brilliant men of his time, was too 
deeply plunged in politics to be more than an accomplished 
amateur in poetry. Yet it must have been more than his 
intimate friendship with Catullus, and their common fate 
of too early a death, that made the two names so con- 
stantly coupled afterwards. By the critics of the Silver 
Age, no less than by Horace and Propertius, the same idea 
is frequently repeated, which has its best-known expression 
in Ovid's beautiful invocation in his elegy on Tibullus — 

Obvius huic venias, hedera iuvenilia cinctus 
Tetnpora, cum Calvo, docte Catulie, tuo. 

We must lament the total loss of a volume of lyrics which 
competent judges thought worthy to be set beside that of 
his wonderful friend. 

Gains Valerius Catullus of Verona, one of the greatest 
names of Latin poetry, belonged, like most of this group, 
to a wealthy and distinguished family, and was introduced 
at an early age to the most fashionable circles of the 
capital. He was just so much younger than Lucretius that 
the*Marian terror and the SuUan proscriptions can hardly 
have left any strong traces on his memory ; when he died, 
Caesar was still fighting in Gaul, and the downfall of the 
Republic could only be dimly foreseen. In time, no less 
than in genius, he represents the fine flower of the 
Ciceroniaa age. He was about five and twenty when the 

54 Latin Literature. [I. 

famous liaison began between him and the lady whom he 
has immortalised under the name of Lesbia. By birth a 
Claudia^ and wife of her cousin, a Caecilius Metellus, she 
belonged by blood and marriage to the two proudest famihes 
of the inner circle of the aristocracy. Clodia was seven 
years older than Catullus ; but that only made their mutual 
attraction more irresistible : and the death of her husband 
in the year after his consulship, whether or not there was 
foundation for the common rumour that she had poisoned 
him, was an incident that seems to have passed almost 
unnoticed in the first fervour of their passion. The story of 
infatuation, revolt, relapse, fresh revolt and fresh entangle- 
ment, lives and breathes in the verses of Catullus. It was 
after their final rupture that Catullus made that journey to 
Asia which gave occasion to his charming poems of travel. 
In the years which followed his return to Italy, he con- 
tinued to produce with great versatility and force, making 
experiments in several new styles, and devoting great pains 
to an elaborate metrical technique. Feats of learning and 
skill alternate with political verses, into which he carries 
all his violence of love and hatred. But while these later 
poems compel our admiration, it is the earlier ones which 
win and keep our love. Though the old liquid note ever 
and again recurs, the freshness of these first lyrics, in which 
life and love and poetry are all alike in their morning 
glory, was never to be wholly recaptured. Nor did he 
live to settle down on any matured second maimer. He 
was thirty-three at the utmost — perhaps not more than 
thirty — when he died, leaving behind him the volume 
of poems which sets him as the third beside Sappho and 

The order of the poems in this volume seems to be an 
artificial compromise between two systems — one an arrange- 
ment by metre, and the other by date of composition. In 
the former view the book falls into three sections — the pure 
lyrics, the idyllic pieces^ and the poems in elegiac verse. 

v.] Catullus. 55 

The central place is oca-'pied by the longest and most 
elaborate, if not the most successful, of his poems, the epic 
idyl on the marriage of Peleus and Thetis. Before this 
are the lyrics, chiefly in the phalaecean eleven-syllabled 
verse which Catullus made so peculiarly his own, but in 
iambic, sapphic, choriambic, and other metres also, winding 
up with the fine epithalamium written for the marriage of 
his friends, Mallius and Vinia. The transition from this 
group of lyrics to the Marriage of Peleus and Thetis is made 
with great skill through another wedding-chant, an idyl in 
form, but approaching to a lyric in tone, without any 
personal allusions, and not apparently written for any 
particular occasion. Finally comes a third group of poems, 
extending to the end of the volume, all written in elegiac 
verse, but otherwise extremely varied in date, subject, and 
manner. The only poem thus left unaccounted for, the 
Aiys^ is inserted in the centre of the volume, between the 
two hexameter poems, as though to make its wild metre 
and rapid movement the more striking by contrast with 
their smooth and languid rhythms. Whether the arrange- 
ment of the whole book comes from the poet's own hand 
is very doubtful. His dedicatory verses, which stand at 
the head of the volume, are more probably attached to the 
first part only, the book of lyrics. Catullus almost cer- 
tainly died in S4--?'P^i- the only positive dates assignable to 
particular poems, in either the lyric or the elegiac section, 
alike lie within the three or four years previous, and, while 
no strict chronological order is followed, the pieces at 
the beginning of the book are almost certainly the earliest, 
and those at the end among the latest. 

Among the poems of Catullus, those connected with 
Lesbia hold the foremost place, and, as expressions of direct 
personal emotion, are unsurpassed, not merely in Latin, but 
in any literature. There are no poems of the growth of 
love among them; from the first, Lesbia appears as the 
absolute mistress of her lover's heart : 

56 Latin Literature. \l. 

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus^ 
Rutnoresque senutn severiorum 
Omnes unius aestimemus assis. 
Soles occidere et redire possunt ; 
Nobis cum seifiel occidit brevis lux 
Nox est perpetua una dormienda : — 

thus he cries in the first intoxication of his happiness, as 
yet ignorant that the brief light of his love was to go out 
before noon. Gloria soon showed that the advice not to 
care for the opinion of the world was, in her case, infinitely 
superfluous. That intolerable pride which was the pro- 
verbial curse of the Claudian house took in her the form 
of a flagrant disregard of all conventions. In the early 
days of their love, Catullus only felt, or only expressed, the 
beautiful side of this recklessness. His affection for Clodia 
had in it, he says, goinething of the tenderness of parents 
for their children ; and the poems themselves bear this out. 
We do not need to read deeply in Catullus to be assured 
that merely animal passion ran as strong in him as it ever 
did in any man. But in the earlier poems to Lesbia all 
this turns to air and fire ; the intensity of his love melts 
its grosser elements into one white flame. There is hardly 
even a word of Lesbia's bodily beauty ; her great blazing 
eyes have only come down to us in the sarcastic allusions 
made to them by Cicero in his speeches and letters. As 
in some of the finest lyrics of Burns, with whom Catullus, 
as a poet of love, has often been compared, the ardency of 
passion has effected for quintessential moments the work 
that long ages may work out on the whole fabric of a 
human soul — Concretam exemit labent purumque reliquit 
aetherium sensum atque aurdi simplicis ignem. 

But long after the rapture had passed away the enthral- 
ment remained. Lesbia's first infidelities only riveted her 
lover's chains — 

v.] Catullus. 57 

Atnantetn iniuria talis 
Cogit amare magis ; 

then he hangs between love and hatred, in the poise of 
soul immortalised by him in the famous verse — 

Odt et atno : quare id faciam fortasse requiris ; 
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior. 

There were ruptures and reconciliations, and renewed 
ruptures and repeated returns, but through them all, while 
his love hardly lessens, his hatred continually grows, and 
the lyrical cry becomes one of the sharpest agony : through 
protestations of fidelity, through wails over ingratitude, he 
sinks at last into a stupor only broken by moans of pain. 
Then at last youth reasserts itself, and he is stung into ne\f 
life by the knowledge that he has simply dropped out of 
Lesbia's existence. His final renunciation is no longer 
addressed to her deaf ears, but flung at her in studied 
insult through two of the associates of their old revels in 

Cum suis vivat vakatque moechis 
Quos siniul complexa tenet trecentos 
Nullum amans vere^ sed identidem * omnium 
Ilia rumpens — 

so the hard clear verse flashes out, to melt away in the 
dying fall, the long-drawn sweetness of the last words 
of all — 

Nee meum respectet ut ante amorem 
Qui illius culpa cecidit, velutprati 
Ultimi floSy praetereunte postquam 
Tactus aratro est. 

Foremost among the other lyrics of Catullus which have 

• The repetition of this word from the lovely lyric, Ille mi par essg, 
where it occtus in the same place of the verse, is a stroke of subtle and 
daring art 

58 Latin Literature. [L 

a personal reference are those concerned with his journey 
to Asia, and the dea b in the Troad of the deeply loved 
brother whose tomb be visited on that journey. The 
excitement of travel and the delight of return have never 
been more gracefully touched than in these htde lyrics, of 
which every other line has become a household word, the 
lam ver egelidos referttepores^ and the lovely Paene insula rum 
Sirmio insularumque^ whose cadences have gathered a fresh 
sweetness in the hands of Tennyson. But a higher note is 
reached in one or two of the short pieces on his brother's 
death, which are lyrics in all but technical name. The 
finest of these has all the delicate simplicity of an epitaph by 
the best Greek artists, Leonidas or Antipater or Simonides 
himself, and combines with it the Latin dignity, and a range 
of tones, from the ocean-roll of its opening hexameter, 
Multas per gentes et multa per (uquora vectus^ to the sobbing 
wail of the Atque in perpetuum f rater aTfe atque vale in 
which it dies away, that is hardly equalled except in some 
of Shakespeare's sonnets. 

It is in these short lyrics of personal passion or emotion 
that the genius of Catullus is mofiU unique; but the same 
high qualities appear in the few specimens he has left of 
more elaborate l)rrical architecture, the Ode to Diana, the 
marriage-song for Mallius and Vinia, and the Atys, TTie 
first of these, brief as it is, has a breadth and grandeur of 
manner which — as in the noble fragment of Keats' Ode to 
Maia — lift it into the rank of great masterpieces. The 
epithalamium, on the other hand, with which the book of 
lyrics ends, while very simple in structure, is large in scale. 
It is as much longer than the rest of the lyrics as the 
marriage-song which stands at the end of In Memoriam 
is than the other sections of that poem. In the charm 
of perfect simplicity it equals the finest of his lyrics ; but 
besides this, it has in its clear ringing music what is for 
this period an almost unique premonition of the new world 
that ro§e put pf the darkness of the Middle Ages, th§ 

v.] Catullus, 59 

world that had mvented bells and church-organs, and 
had added a new romantic beauty to love and marriage. 
With a richness of phrase that recalls the Song of Solomon, 
the verses clash and swing : Open your bars, O gates / 
the bride is at hand! Lo, how the torches shake out their 
splendid tresses / . . . Even so in a rich lords garden-close 
might stand a hyacinth- flower, Lo, the torches shake out 
their golden tresses; go forth, O bride! Day wanes; go 
forth, O bride ! And the verse at the end, about the 
baby on its mother's lap — 

Torquatus volo parvulus 
Matris e gremio suae 
Porrigens teneras manus 
Dulce rideat ad patrem 
I / Semihiante labello — 

is as incomparable ; not again till the Florentine art of the 
fifteenth centtiry was the picture drawn with so true and 
tender a hand. 

Over the Atys modem criticism has exhausted itself 
without any definite result. The accident of its being the 
only Latin poem extant in the peculiar galliambic metre 
has combined with the nature of the subject * to induce a 
tradition about it as though it were the most daring and ex- 
traordinary of Catullus* poems. The truth is quite different. 
It stands midway between the lyrics and the idyls in being 
a poem of most studied and elaborate artifice, in which 
Catullus has chosen, not the statelier and more familiar 
rhythms of the hexameter or elegiac, but one of the Greek 
lyric metres, of which he had already introduced several 
others into Latin. As a tour de force in metrical form 
it is very remarkable, and probably marks the highest point 
of Latin achievement in imitation of the more complex 

* The subject was quite a usual one among the Alexandrian poets 
whom Catullus read and imitated. Cf. Anthologia Palatma, vii* 

^ Latm LtUruiMn^ [L 

Gw^ tnneitfies^ Ai$ a Ijric poem it presencs^ eivn in ib 
Iw^libfy ;a»tii6d<al jEtroctKare^ nEodi of the dscct fixoe and 
$j|09piiciit^ vlucb nasfk afl Cattalks' best Ijiics ; tint it goes 
t^oiMl tfei^^ 'Or that — as n> often rq^eated — it txansoends 
botb the i4^ and die bnefer Ijiics in snstsuned beanty and 
ps^k^ cannot be held by any sane jndgment. 

Vimi br elaboration could lead CatoDns is shown in the 
long idyllic poem on the Marriage of Pdtus and Thttis. 
H#re he enttoely abandons the lyric manner, and ad^entores 
mi a new field, in which he does not prove reiy soccessfoL 
The poem is full of great beauties of detail ; bat as a whcde 
it \sk cloying without bring satis^ring. For~^~Tew lines 
together Catullus can write in hexameter more exquisitely 
than any other Latin poet. The description in this piece 
of the little breeze that rises at dawn, beginning Hie quaUs 
flatu placidum mare matutino^ like the more ^mous lines in 
bl» other idyllic poem — 

Ut flos in sepHs secretum nascitur hortis, 
Jgnotus pecorif nullo contusus aratrOy 
Quern mulcent aurae^ fir mat sol, educat imber; 
MulH ilium pueri, multae optavere puellae — 

has an intangible and inexpressible beauty such as never 
recurs In the more mature art of greater masters. But 
Catullus has no narrative gift ; his use of the hexameter is 
confined to a limited set of rhythms which in a poem about 
the length of a book of the Georgics become hopelessly 
monotonous; and it finally stops, rather than ends, when 
the writer (as is already the case with the reader) grows tired 
of it. It is remarkable that the poet who in the lightness 
and speed of his other metres is unrivalled in Latin, should, 
when he attempts the hexameter, be more languid and 
heavy, not only than his successors, but than his con- 
temporaries. Here, as in the elaborate imitations of 
Canimachua with which he tested his command of the 
Latin elegiac^ he is weak because he wanders off the true 


v.] Catullus. 6l 

line, not from any failure in his own special gift, which was 
purely and simply lyrical. When he uses the elegiac verse 
to express his own feeling, as in the attacks on political or 
personal enemies, it has the same direct lucidity (as of an 
extraordinarily gifted child) which is the essential charm of 
his lyrics. 

It is just this quality, this clear and almost terrible sim- 
plicity, that puts Catullus in a place by himself among the 
Latin poets. Where others labour in the ore of thought and 
gradually forge it out into sustained expression, he sees 
with a single glance, and does not strike a second time. 
His imperious lucidity is perfectly unhesitating in its ac- 
tion : whether he is using it for the daintiest flower of sen- 
timent — fair passions and bountiful pities and loves without 
stain — or for the expression of his vivid passions and hatreds 
in some flagrant obscenity or venomous insult, it is alike 
straight and reckless, with no scruple and no mincing of 
^\7Qrds ; in Mr. Swinburne's curiously true and vivid phrase, 
he " makes mouths at our speech " when we try to follow him. 

With the death of Catullus and Calvus, an era in Latin 
poetry definitely ends. Only thirteen or fourteen years later 
a new era begins with the appearance of Virgil ; iut this 
small interval of time is sufficient to mark the passage ixCraa 
one age — we might almost say from one civiHsation — to 
another. During these years poetry was almost silent, while 
the Roman world shook with continuous civil war and the 
thunder of prodigious armies. The school of minor 
Alexandrian poets still indeed continued ; the " warblers of 
Euphorion" with their smooth rhythms and elaborate 
finesse of workmanship are spoken of by Cicero as still 
numerous and active ten years after Catullus' death. But 
their artifice had lost the gloss of novelty ; and the unex- 
ampled enthusiasm which greeted the appearance of the 
Eclogues was due less perhaps to their intrinsic excellence 
than to the relief with which Roman poetry shook itself free 
from the fetters of so rigorous and exhausting a convention. 



Meanwhile, in the last age of the Republic, Latin prose 
had reached its full splendour in the hands of the most 
copious and versatile master of style whom the Graeco- 
Roman world had yet produced. The claims of Cicero to 
a place among the first rank of Roman statesmen have 
been fiercely canvassed by modern critics ; and both in 
oratory and philosophy some excess of veneration once 
paid to him has been replaced by an equally excessive 
depreciation. The fault in both estimates lay in the fact 
that they were alike based on secondary issues. Cicero's 
unique and imperishable glory is not, as he thought himself, 
that of having put down the revolutionary movement of 
Catiline, nor, as later ages thought, that of having rivalled 
Demosthenes in the Second Philippic, or confuted atheism 
in the De Natura Deorum, It is that he created a lan- 
guage which remained for sixteen centuries that of the 
civilised world, and used that language to create a style 
which nineteen centuries have not replaced, and in some 
respects have scarcely altered. He stands in prose, like 
Virgil in poetry, as the bridge between the ancient and 
modem world. Before his time, Latin prose was, from a 
wide point of view, but one among many local ancient 
dialects. As it left his hands, it had become a universal 
language, one which had definitely superseded all others, 
Greek included, as the type of civihsed expression, r 


VI.] Cicero, 63 

Thus the apparently obsolete criticism which ranked 
Cicero together with Plato and Demosthenes, if not above 
them, was based on real facts, though it may be now 
apparent that it gave them a wrong interpietation. Even 
scholars may admit with but slight reluctance that the 
prose of the great Attic writers is, like the sculpture of 
their contemporary artists, a thing remote from modem 
life, requiring much training and study for its appreciation, 
and confined at the best to a hmited circle. But Ciceronian 
prose is practically the prose of the human race ; not only 
of the Roman empire of the first and second centuries, 
but of Lactantius and Augustine, of the mediaeval 'Church, 
of the earlier and later Renaissance, and even now, when 
the Renaissance is a piece of past history, of the modern 
world to which the Renaissance was the prelude. 

The life of Cicero as a man of letters may be divided 
into four periods, which, though not of course wholly 
distinct from one another, may be conveniently treated as 
separate for the purpose of criticism./ The first is that of 
his immature early writings — poems, treatises on rhetoric, 
and forensic speeches — covering the period from his boy- 
hood in the Civil wars, to the first consulship of Pompeius 
and Crassus, in 70 b.c. The second, covering his life as 
ail active statesman of the first prominence, begins with 
the Verrine orations of that year, and goes down to the 
consulship of Julius Caesar, in 59 B.C. These ten years 
mark his culmination as an orator ; and there is no trace 
in them of any large literary work except in the field of 
oratory. In the next year came his exile, from which 
indeed he returned within a twelvemonth, but as a broken 
statesman. From this po|nt to the outbreak of the Civil 
war in 50 B.C., the third period continues the record of his 
great speeches ; but they are no longer at the old height, 
nor do tto^ occupy his full energy ; and now he breaks new 
ground in two fields with works of extraordinary brilliance, 
the De Oratore and the De Republica, During the heat 01 

64 Latin Literature. [I. 

the Civil war there follows a period of comparative silence, 
but for his private correspondence ; then comes the fourdi 
and final period, perhaps the most brilliant of all, the four 
years from 46 b,c. to h's death in 43 b,c. The few speeches 
of the years 46 and 45 show hut the ghost of former 
splendours; he was turning perforce to other subjects. 
The poUtical philosophy of the De RepuhUca is resumed 
in the De Legibus ; the De Oratore is continued by the 
history of Roman oratory known as the Brutus. Then, as 
if realising that his true work in life was to mould his 
native language into a vehicle of abstract thought, he sets 
to work with amazing swiftness and copiousness to re- 
produce a whole series of Greek philosophical treatises, 
in a style which, for flexibiUty and grace, recalls the Greek 
of the best period — the De Finibus^ the Academics , the 
TusculanSy the De Natura Deorum^ the De Divinaiione^ the 
De Officiis. Concurrently with these, he continues to throw 
off fiirther manuals of the theory and practice of oratory^ 
intended in the first instance for the use of the son who 
proved so thankless a pupil, the ParHtiones Oratoriae^ the 
Tofica^ the De Optimo Genere Oraiorum, Meanwhile, the 
Roman world had again been plunged into civil war by the 
assassination of Caesar. Cicero's political influence was 
no longer great, but it was still worth the while of younger 
and more unscrupulous statesmen to avail themselves of 
his eloquence by assumed deference and adroit flattery. 
The series of fourteen speeches delivered at Rome against 
Marcus Antonius, between September, 44, and April, 43 
B.C., were the last outburst of firee Roman oratory before 
the final extinction of the Republic. That even at the 
time there was a sense of their unreality — of their being 
rhetorical exercises to interest the capital while the real 
issues of the period were being fought out elsewhere — is 
indicated by the name that.firom the first they went under, 
the Philippics. In the epoch of the Verrines and the 
CatiUnarians it had not been necessary to find titles for 

VI.] Cicero. 65 

the weapons of political warfare out of old Greek history. 
Yet, in spite of this unreality, and of the decline they show 
in thie highest oratorical qualities, the Philippics still remain 
a noble ruin of eloquence. 

Oratory at Rome had, as we have already seen, attained 
a high degree of perfection when Cicero entered on public 
life. Its golden age was indeed, in the estimation of 
some critics, already over; old men spoke with admiring 
regret of the speeches of the younger Scipio and of Gaius 
Gracchus; and the death of the great pair of friendly 
rivals, Crassus and Antonius, left no one at the moment 
who could be called their equal. But admirable as these 
great orators had been, there was still room for a higher 
formal perfection, a more exhaustive and elaborate tech- 
nique, without any loss of material qualities. Closer and 
more careful study led the orators of the next age into 
one of two opposed, or rather complementary styles, the 
Attic and Asiatic; the calculated simplicity of the one 
being no less artificial than the florid ornament of the 
other. At an early age Cicero, with the intuition of genius, 
realised that he must not attach himself to either school. 
A fortunate delicacy of health led him to withdraw for two 
years, at the age of seven and twenty, from the practice 
at the bar, in which he was already becoming famous; 
and in the schools of Athens and Rhodes he obtained 
a larger view of his art, both in theory and practice, and 
returned to Rome to form, not to follow, a style. Quintus 
Hortensius Hortalus, the foremost representative of the 
Asiatic school, was then at the height of his forensic repu- 
* tation. Within a year or two Cicero was recognised as 
at least his equal : it is to the honour of both, that the 
eclipse of Hortensius by his younger rival brought no 
jealousy or alienation; up to the death of Hortensius, 
about the outbreak of the Civil war, they remained good 
friends. Years afterwards Cicero inscribed with his name 
the treatise, now lost, but made famous to. later ages by 


66 Latin Literature. [I. 

having been one of the great turning-points in the life of 
St Augustine,* which he wrote in praise of philosophy as 
an introduction to the series of his philosophical works. 

The years which followed Cicero's return fixjm the East 
were occupied, with the single break of his quaestorship in 
Sicily, by hard and continuous work at the bar. His 
speeches of this date, being non-political, have for the most 
part not been preserved. The two still imperfectly extant, 
the Pro Roscio Comoedo of 76, and the Pro TuUio of 
72 B.C. , form, together with two other speeches dating from 
before his visit to the East, the Pro Quinctio and Prp^ 
Roscio Amerino, and, with his juvenile treatise on rhetoric 
known as the De Inventione, the body of prose composition 
which represents the first of his four periodsi These early 
speeches are carefully composed according to the scholastic 
canons then in vogue, the hard legal style of the older 
courts alternating with passages of carefully executed arti- 
ficial ornament. Their chief interest is one of contrast 
with his matured style ; for they show, no doubt with much 
accuracy, what the general level of oratory was out of which 
the great Ciceronian eloquence sprang. 

In 70 B.C. , at the age of thirty-six, Cicero at last found 
his great chance, and seized it. The impeachment of 
Verres for maladministration in the government of Sicily 
was a political trial of gteat constitutional importance. It 
was undertaken at the direct encouragement of Pompeius, 
who had entered on his first or democratic consulate, and 
was indirectly a formidable attack both on the oligarchic 
administration of the provinces and on the senatorian jury- 
panels, in whose hands the Sullan constitution had placed 
the only check upon misgovernment. The defence of 
Verres was undertaken by Hortensius ; the ' selection of 
Cicero -^S^chief counsel for the prosecution by the demo- 
cratic leaders was a public recognition of him as the fore- 
most orator on the Pompeian side. He threw himself into 

• Con/ess,^ III. iv. 

VI.] Cicero. 67 

the trial with all his energy. After his opening speech, 
and the evidence which followed, Verres threw up his 
defence and went into exile. This, of course, brought the 
case to an end ; but the cause turned on larger issues than 
his particular guilt or innocence. The whole of the material 
prepared against him was swiftly elaborated by Cicero into 
five great orations, and published as a political document. 
These orations, the Second Action against Verres as they 
are called, were at once" the most powerful attack yet 
made on the working of the SuUan constitution, and the 
high-water mark of the earlier period of Cicero's eloquence. 
It was not till some years later that his oratory culmi- 
nated; but he never excelled these speeches in richness 
and copiousness of style, in ease and lucidity of exposition, 
and in poweFbf dealing with large masses of material. He 
at once became an imposing political force; perhaps it 
was hardly realised till later how incapable that force was 
of going straight or of bearing down opposition. The series 
of political and semi-political speeches of the next ten 
years, down to his exile, represent for the time the history 
of Rome ; and together with these we now begin the series 
of his private letters. The year of his praetorship, 66 B.C., 
is marked by the two orations which are on the whole his 
greatest, one public and the other private. The first, the 
speech known as the Fro Lege Manilia, which should really 
be described as the panegyric of Pompeius and of the 
Roman people, does not show any profound appreciation 
of the problems which then confronted the Republic ; but 
the greatness of the Republic itself never found a more 
august interpreter. The stately passage in which Italy and 
the subject provinces are called on to bear witness to the 
deeds of Pompeius breathes the very spirit of an imperial 
race. Throughout this and the other great speeches of 
the period " the Roman People " is a phrase that keeps 
perpetually recurring with an effect like that of a bourdon 
stop. As the eye glances down the page. Consul populi 

68 Latin Literature, [I. 

■. I 

Romania Imperium Populi Romania Fortuna PopuR Romania 
glitter out of the voluminous periods with a splendour that 
hardly any other words could give. 

The other great speech of this year, Cicero's defence of 
Aulus Cluentius Habitus of Larinum on a charge of poison- 
ing, has in its own style an equal brilliance of language. 
The story it unfolds of the ugly tragedies of middle-class 
life in the capital and the provincial Italian towns is famous 
as one of the leading documents for the social life of Rome. 
According to Quintilian, Cicero confessed afterwards that 
his client was not innocent, and that the elaborate and 
impressive story which he unfolds with such vivid detail 
was in great part an invention ^f his own. This may be 
only bar gossip ; true or false, his defence is an extraordi- 
nary masterpiece of oratorical skill. 

The manner in which Cicero conducted a defence when 
the cause was not so grave or so desperate is well illustrated 
by a speech delivered four years later, the Pro Archia. The 
case here was one of contested citizenship. The defendant, 
one of the Greek men of letters who lived in great numbers 
at Rome, had been for years intimate with the literary 
circle among the Roman aristocracy. This intimacy gained 
him the privilege of being defended by the first of Roman 
orators, who would hardly, in any other circumstances, 
have troubled himself with so trivial a case. But the 
speech Cicero delivered is one of the permanent glories 
of Latin literature. The matter immediately at issue is 
summarily dealt with in a few pages of cursory and rather 
careless argument; then the scholar lets himself go. 
Among the many praises of Hterature which great men of 
fetters have delivered, there is hardly one more perfect 
than this; some of the famous sentences have remained 
ever since the abiding motto and blason of literature itself. 
Haec studia adolescentiam aguht, senectutem oblectant^ se^ 
cundas res ornanty adversis perfugium ac solatium prae^efH^ 
deleciant domi, non impediunt forts, pemoctant nobiscum, 

VI.] Cicero. 6g 

peregrinaniury rusticantur ; and again, NuUam enim virtus 
aliam mercedem laborum periculorumque desiderata praeter 
hanc laudis et gioriae ; qua guide m detracta, iudiceSy quid est 
quod in hoc tarn exiguo vitae curriculoy ettam brevi, tantis nos 
in iaboHbus exerceamus? Certe^si nihil animus praesentiret 
in posterunty et si quibus regionibus vitae spatium circum- 
scriptum esty eisdem amnes cogitationes terminaret suas, nee 
tantis se laboribusfrangerety neque tot curis vigiliisque angere- 
tur, neque toties de vita ipsa dimicaret. Strange words these 
to fall from a pleader's lips in the dusty atmosphere of the 
praetor's court ! non fori, neque iudiciali consuetudine, says 
Cicero himself, in the few words of graceful apology with 
which the speech ends. But, in truth, as he well knew, he 
was not speaking to the respectable gentlemen on the 
benches before him. He addressed a larger audience; 
posterity, and the civilised world. 

The Fro Archia foreshadows already the change which 
was bound to take place in Cicero's Hfe, ^nd which was 
precipitated by his exile four years later. More and more 
he found himself forced away from the inner circle of 
politics, and turned to the larger field where he had an 
undisputed supremacy, of political and ethical philosophy 
clothed in the splendid prose of which he had now 
obtained the full mastery. The roll of his great speeches 
is indeed continued after his return from exile; but even 
in the greatest, the Pro Sestio and Pro Caelio of 56, or 
the In Pisonem of 55 B.C., something of the old tone is 
missing ; it is as though the same voice spoke on a smaller 
range of notes and with less flexibility of cadence. And 
now alongside of the speeches begins the great series of 
his works on oratory and philosophy, with the De Oratore 
of 55, and the De Republica of 54 B.C. 

The three books De Oratore are perhaps the most 
ret«^ed examples of the Ciceronian style. The subject 
practih cannot be said of all the subjects he deals with) 
more »>^f which, over all its breadth and in all its detail^ 

70 Latin Literature. [I. 

he was completely master; and, thus left tmhampered by 
any difficulties with his material, he could give full scope 
to his brilliant style and diction. The arrangement of the 
work follows the strict scholastic divisions; but the form 
of dialogue into which it is thrown, and which is managed 
with really great skill, avoids the tediousness incident to a 
systematic treatise. The principal persons of the dialogue 
are the two great orators of the preceding age, Lucius 
Crassus and Marcus Antonius ; this is only one sign out of 
many that Cicero was more and more living in a sort of 
dream of the past, that past of his own youth which was 
still full of traditions of the earlier Republic. 

The De Oratore was so complete a masterpiece that its 
author probably did not care to weaken its effect by con- 
tinuing at the time to bring out any of the supplementary 
treatises on Roman oratory for which his library, and still 
more his memory, had accumulated immense quantities of 
material. In the treatise De Republican which was begun 
in 54 B.C., though not published till three years later, he 
carried the achievement of Latin prose into a larger and 
less technical field — that of the philosophy of politics. 
Again the* scene of the dialogue is laid in a past age; but 
now he goes further back than he had done in the De 
Oratore n to the circle of the younger Scipio. The work was 
received, when published, with immense applause; but 
its loss in the Middle Ages is hardly one of those which 
are most seriously to be deplored, except in so far as the 
second and fifth books may have preserved real information 
on the early history of the Roman State and the develop- 
ment of Roman jurisprudence. Large fragments were re- 
covered early in the present century from a palimpsest, 
itself incomplete, on which the work of Cicero had been 
expunged to make room for the commentar>' of St. Augus- 
tine on the Psalms. The famous Somnium Scipionisy - _ 
which (in imitation of the vision of Er in Plato's -^/^^^ 
He) the work ended, has been independently V^^iscum 

VI.] Cicero. Ji 

Though it flagrantly challenges comparison with the un- 
equalled original, it has, nevertheless, especially in its opening 
and closing passages, a grave dignity which is purely Roman, 
and characteristically Ciceronian. Perhaps some of the 
elaborate fantasies of De Quincey (himself naturally a 
Ciceronian, and saturated in the rhythms and cadences of 
the finest Latin prose) are the nearest parallel to this 
piece in modem English. The opening words of Scipio*s 
narrative. Cum in Africam venissem^ Manio Manilio consult 
ad quartam legionem tribunus^ come on the ear like the 
throb of a great organ; and here and there through the 
piece come astonishing phrases of the same organ-music : 
Ostendebat autem Karthaginem de excelso etpkno steUarum 
inlustri et claro quodam loco, . . . Quis in reliquis orientis 
aut obeuntis solis, ulHmis aut aquilonis ausirive partibus^ 
tuum nomen audiet / . . . Deutn te igitur scito esse, siquidem 
deus est, qui viget, qui sentit, qui meminit, qui providet — 
hardly from the lips of Virgil himself does the noble Latin 
speech issue with a purer or a more majestic flow. 

During the next few years the literary activity of Cicero 
sufiered a check. The course of politics at Rome filled 
him with profound disappointment and disgust. Public 
issues, it became more and more plain, waited for their 
determination, not on the senate-house or the forum, but 
on the sword. The shameful collapse of his defence of 
Milo in 52 B.C. must have stung a vanity even as well- 
hardened as Cicero's to the quick; and his only important 
abstract work of this period, the De Legibus, seems to have 
been undertaken with little heart a A carried out without 
either research or enthusiasm. His proconsulate in Cilicia 
in 51 and 50 B.C. was occupied with the tedious details of 
administration and petty warfare ; six months after his 
return the Civil war broke out, and, until permitted to 
return to Rome by Caesar in the autumn of 47 B.C., he was 
practically an exile, away from his beloved Rome and his 
more beloved library, hating and despising the ignorant 

J2 Latin Literature, [!• 

incompetence of his colleagaes, and looking forward with 
almost equal terror to the conclusive triumph of his own 
or the opposite party. When at last he returned, his mind 
was still agitated and unsettled. The Pompeian party held 
Africa and Spain with large armies; their open threats 
that all who had come to terms with Caesar would be 
proscribed as public enemies were not calculated to restore 
Cicero's confidence. The decisive battle of Thapsus put 
an end to this uncertainty; and meanwhile Cicero had 
resumed work on his De Legibus^ and had once more 
returned to the study of oratory in one of the most in- 
teresting of his writings, the Brutus de clans Oratoribus^ in 
which he gives a vivid and masterly sketch of the history 
of Roman oratory down to his own time, filled with histori- 
cal matter and admirable sketches of character. 

The spring of 45 B.C. brought with it two events of 
momentous importance to Cicero : the final collapse of the 
armed opposition to Caesar at the battle of Munda, and 
the loss, by the death of his daughter TuUia, of the one 
deep affection of his inner life. Henceforth it seemed as 
if politics had ceased to exist, even had he the heart to 
interest himself in them. He fell back more completely 
than ever upon philosophy; and the year that followed 
(45-44 B.C.) is, in mere quantity of literary production, as 
well as in the abiding effect on the world of letters of the 
work he then produced, the annus mirabilis of his life. 
Two at least of the works of this year, the De Gloria and 
the De Virtutibus^ have perished, though the former survived 
long enough to be read by Petrarch; but there remain 
extant (besides one or two other pieces of slighter im* 
portance) the De Finibus, the Academics, the Tusculans, 
the De Natura Deorum, the De Divinatiotie, the De Fato, 
the De OfficiiSy and the two exquisite essays De Senectute 
and De Amicitia. 

It is the work of this astonishing year which, on the 
whole, represents Cicero's permanent contribution to letters 

VI.] Cicero, 73 

and to human thought. If his philosophy seems now to 
have exhausted its influence, it is because it has in great 
measure been absorbed into the fabric of civilised society. 
Ciceronianism, at the period of the Renaissance, and even 
in the eighteenth century, meant more than the impulse 
towards florid and sumptuous style. It meant all that is 
conveyed by the Latin word humanitas ; the title of " the 
humaner letters," by which Latin was long designated in 
European universities, indicated that in the great Latin 
writers — in Cicero and Virgil pre-eminently — a higher type 
of human life was to be found than existed in the literature 
of other countries : as though at Rome, and in the first 
century before Christ, the political and social environment 
had for the first time produced men such as men would 
wish to be, at all events for the ideals of Western Europe. 
To less informed or less critical ages than our own, the 
absolute contribution of Cicero to ethics and metaphysics 
seemed comparable to that of the great Greek thinkers ; 
the De Natura Deorum was taken as a workable argument 
against atheism, and the thin and wire-drawn discussions of 
the Academics were studied with an attention hardly given 
to the founder of the Academy. When a sounder historical 
method brought these writings into their real proportion, 
it was inevitable that the scale should swing violently to 
the other side ; and for a time no language was too strong 
in which to attack the reputation of the " phrase-maker," 
the "journalist," whose name had once dominated Europe. 
The violence of this attack has now exhausted itself; and 
we may be content, without any exaggerated praise or 
blame, to note the actual historical effect of these writings 
through many ages, and the actual impression made on 
the world by the type of character which they embodied 
and, in a sense, created. In this view, Cicero represents 
a force that no historian can neglect, and the importance 
of which it is not easy to over-estimate. He did for the 
Empire and the Middle Ages what Lucretius, with his 

74 Latin LUeratMnt, 

Caj greater phSosofribx: gemofi, totaDj fdled to do — creatied 
iQtm% of thought in viiSch the life of philosophy grew, and 
a body of expression whidi alone made its growth in the 
Latin-^peaJdng worid possible; and to that wodd he pre- 
fented a political ideal which profonndl j inflncnced the 
whole course of European history even up to the French 
Eevohttion. Without Cicero, the Middle Ages would not 
have had Augustine or Aquinas; but, without him, the 
movement which annulled the Middle Ages would have 
had neither Miribeau nor Htt. 

The part of Cicero's work which die present age 
probably finds the most interesting, and the interest of 
which is, in the nature of things, perennial, has been as yet 
left unmentioned. It consists of the collections of his 
private letters from the year tZ b.c. to within a few months 
of his death. The first of these contains his letters to the 
intimate friend and adviser, Titus Pomponius Atticus, with 
whom, when they were not both in Rome, he kept up 
a constant and an extremely intimate correspondence. 
Atticus, whose profession, as &r as he had one, was that 
of a banker, was not only a man of wide knowledge and 
great political sagacity, but a refined critic and an author 
of considerable merit. The publishing business, which he 
conducted as an adjunct to his principal profession, made 
him of great use to Cicero by the rapid multiplication in 
his workshops of copies of the speeches or other writings 
for which there was an immediate public demand. But 
the intimacy was much more than that of the politician 
and his confidential adviser, or the author and his publisher. 
Cicero found in him a friend with whom he could on all 
occasions be perfectly frank and at his ease, and on whose 
sober judgment and undemonstrative, but perfectly sincere, 
attachment his own excitable and emotional nature^^uld 
always throw itself without reserve. About four hundred 
of the letters were published by Atticus several years after 
Cicero's death. It must always be a source of regret that 

VI.] Cicero. 75 

he could not, or, at all events, did not, publish the other 
half of the correspondence ; many of the letters, especially 
the brief confidential notes, have the tantalising interest of 
a conversation where one of the speakers is inaudible. 
It is the letters to Atticus that place Cicero at the head of 
all epistolary stylists. We should hardly guess from the 
more formal and finished writings what the real man was, 
with his excitable Italian temperament, his swift power of 
phrase, his sensitive affections. 

The other large collection of Cicero's letters, the 
Epistolae ad FamiliareSy was preserved and edited by his 
secretary. Tiro. They are, of course, of very unequal 
value and interest. Some are merely formal documents; 
others, like those to his wife and family in book xiv., are 
as intimate and as valuable as any we possess. The two 
smaller collections, the letters to his brother Quintus, and 
those to Marcus Brutus, of which a mere fragment is 
extant, are of little independent value. The Epistolae 
ad Familiares include, besides Cicero's own letters, a 
^ large number of letters addressed to him by various 
correspondents ; a whole book, and that not the least 
interesting, consists of those sent to him during his Cilician 
proconsulate by the brilliant and erratic young aristocrat, 
Marcus Caelius Rufus, who was the next successor of 
Catullus as the favoured lover of Clodia Quadrantaria. 
Full of the political and social gossip of the day, they are 
written in a curiously slipshod but energetic Latin, which 
brings before us even more vividly than Cicero's own the 
famihar language of the upper classes at Rome at the time. 
Another letter, which can hardly be passed* over in silence 
in any history of Latin literature, is the noble message of 
condolence to Cicero on the death of his beloved Tullia, 
by the statesman and jurist, Servius Sulpicius Rufus, who 
carried on in this age the great tradition of the Scaevolae. 

It is due to these priceless collections of letters, more 
than to any other single thing, that our knowledge of the 

J6 La/in Literature. [I. 

Ciceronian age is so complete and so intimate. At eveiy 
point they reinforce and vitalise the more elaborate literary 
productions of the period. The art of letter-writing sud- 
denly rose in Cicero's hands to its full perfection. It fell 
to the lot of no later Roman to have at once such mastery 
over familiar style, and contemporary events of such 
engrossing and ever-changing interest on which to exercise 
it. All the great letter-writers of more modem ages have 
more or less, consciously or unconsciously, followed the 
Ciceronian model England of the eighteenth century 
was peculiarly rich in them ; but Horace Walpole, Cowper, 
Gray himself, would willingly have acknowledged Cicero 
as their master. 

Caesar's assassination on the 15th of March, 44 B.a, 
plunged the political situation into a worse chaos than had 
ever been reached during the civil wars. For several 
months it was not at all plain how things were tending, 
or what fresh combinations were to rise out of the welter 
in which a vacillating and incapable senate formed the 
only constitutional rallying-point. In spite of all his long- 
cherished delusions, Cicero must have known that this way 
no hope lay ; when at last he flung himself into the conflict, 
and broke away from his literary seclusion to make the 
fierce series of attacks upon Antonius which fill the winter 
of 44-43 B.C., he may have had some vague hopes from 
the Asiatic legions which once before, in Sulla's hands, had 
checked the revolution, and some from the power of his 
own once unequiQled eloquence; but on the whole he 
seems to have undertaken the contest chiefly from the 
instinct that had become a tradition, and from his deep 
personal repugnance to Antonius. Tlie fourteen Philippics 
add little to his reputation as an orator, and still less to his 
credit as a statesman. The old watchwords are there, 
but their unreality is now more obvious ; the old rhetorical 
skill, but more coarsely and less effectively used. The last 
Philippic was delivered to advocate a public thanksgiving 

VI.] Cicero. J J 

for the victory gained over Antonius by the consuls, Hirtius 
and Pansa. A month later, the consuls were both dead, 
and their two armies had passed into the control of the 
young Octavianus. In autumn the triumvirate was consti- 
tuted, with an armed force of forty legions behind it. The 
proscription Usts were issued in November. On the 7th 
of December, after some aimless wandering that hardly 
was a serious effort to escape, Cicero was overtaken near 
Formiae by a small party of Antonian troops. He was 
killed, and his head sent to Rome and displayed in the 
senate-house. There was nothing left for which he could 
have wished to live. In the five centuries of the Republic 
there never had been a darker time for Rome. Cicero 
had outlived almost all the great men of his age. The 
newer generation, so far as they had revealed themselves, 
were of a t)rpe from which those who had inherited the 
great traditions of the Republic shrank with horror. 
Caesar Octavianus, the future master of the world, was a 
delicate boy of twenty, already an object of dislike and dis- 
trust to nearly all his allies. Virgil, a poet still voiceless^ 
was twenty-seven. 



Fertile as the Ciceronian age was in authorship of many 
kinds, there was only one person in it whose claim to be 
placed in an equal rank with Cicero could ever be seriously 
entertained ; and this was, strangely enough, one who was 
as it were only a man of letters by accident, and whose 
literary work is but among the least of his titles to fame — 
Julius Caesar himself. That -mything written by that 
remarkable man must be interesting and valuable in a high 
degree is obvious ; but the combination of literary power 
of the very first order with his unparalleled military and 
political genius is perhaps unique in history. 

It is one of the most regrettable losses in Latin literature 
that Caesar's speeches and letters have almost completely 
perished. Of the latter several collections were made after 
his death, and were extant in the second century ; but none 
are now preserved, except a few brief notes to Cicero, of 
which copies were sent by him at the time to Atticus. The 
fragments of his speeches are even less considerable ; yet, 
according to the unanimous testimony both of contemporary 
and of later critics, they were unexcelled in that age of great 
oratory. He used the Latin language with a purity and 
distinction that no one else could equal. And along with 
this quality, the mira eUgantia of Quintilian, his oratory 
had some kind of severe magnificence which we can partly 


VII.] Caesar. 79 

guess at from his extant writings — magnifica et generosa, 
says Cicero ; facultas dicendi imperatoria is the phrase of 
a later and able critic. 

Of Caesar's other lost writings little need be said. In 
youth, like most of his contemporaries, he wrote poems, 
including a tragedy, of which Tacitus drily observes that 
they were not better than those of Cicero. A grammatical 
treatise, De Analogia, was composed by him during one 
of his long journeys between Northern Italy and the 
head-quarters of his army in Gaul during his proconsulate. 
A work on astronomy, apparently written in connection 
with his reform of the calendar, two pamphlets attacking 
Cato, and a collection of apophthegms, have also dis- 
appeared. But we possess what were by far the most 
important of his writings, his famous memoirs of the Gallic 
and Civil Wars. 

The seven books of Commentaries on the Gallic War 
were written in Caesar's winter-quarters in Gaul, after the 
capture of Alesia and the final suppression of the Arvemian 
revolt. They were primarily intended to serve an immediate 
political purpose, and are indeed a defence, framed with 
the most consummate skill, of the author's whole Gallic 
policy and of his constitutional position. That Caesar was 
able to do this without, so far as can be judged, violating, or 
even to any large degree suppressing facts, does equal 
credit to the clearsightedness of his policy and to his 
extraordinary literary power. From first to last there is not 
a word either of self-laudation or of innuendo ; yet at the 
end we find that, by the use of the simplest and most 
lucid narration, in which hardly a fact or a detail can be 
controverted, Caesar has cleared his motives and justified 
his conduct with a success the more complete because his 
tone is so temperate and seemingly so impartial. An officer 
of his staff who was with him during that winter, and who 
afterwards added an eighth book to the Commentaries 
to complete the history of the Gallic proconsulate^ ha& 

So Latin Literature, p. 

recorded the ease and swiftness with which the work 
was written. Caesar issued it under the unpretending 
name of Commentarii — " notes " — on the events of his 
campaigns, which might be useful as materials for history ; 
but there was no exaggeration in the splendid compUment 
paid it a few years later by Cicero, that no one in his senses 
would think of recasting a work whose succinct, perspicuous, 
and brilliant style — pura et inlustris brevitas — has been the 
model and the despair of later historians. 

The three books of Commentaries on the Civil War show 
the same merits in a much less marked degree. They were 
not published in Caesar's lifetime, and do not seem to 
have received from him any close or careful revision. The 
literary incompetence of the Caesarian officers into whose 
hands they fell after his death, and one or more of whom 
must be responsible for their publication, is sufficiently 
evident from their own awkward attempts at continuing 
them in narratives of the Alexandrine, African, and Spanish 
campaigns; and whether from the carelessness of the 
original editors or from Other reasons, the text is in a most 
deplorable condition. Yet this is not in itself sufficient 
to account for many positive misstatements. Either the 
editors used a very free hand in altering the rough manu- 
script, or — which is not in itself unlikely, and is borne out 
by other facts — Caesar's own prodigious memory and 
incomparable perspicuity became impaired in those five 
years of all but superhuman achievement, when, with the 
whole weight of the civilised world on his shoulders, feebly 
served by second-rate lieutenants and hampered at every 
turn by the open or passive opposition of nearly the whole 
of the trained governing classes, he conquered four great 
Roman armies, secured Egypt and Upper Asia and an- 
nexed Numidia to the Republic, carried out the unifica- 
tion of Italy, re-established public order and public credit, 
and left at his death the foundations of the Empire securely 
laid for his successor* 

VII.] Caesar's Officers, 8i 

The loyal and capable officer, Aulus Hirtius (who after- 
wards became consul, and was killed in battle before 
Mutina a year after Caesar's murder), did his best to 
supplement his master's narrative. He seems to have been 
a well-educated man, but without any particular literary 
capacity. It was uncertain, even to the careful research of 
Suetonius, whether the narrative of the campaigns in Egypt 
and Pontus, known as the Bellum Alexandrinum^ was written 
by him or by another officer of Caesar's, Gains Oppius. 
The books on the campaigns of Africa and Spain which 
follow are by different hands : the former evidently by 
some subaltern officer who took part in the war, and very 
interesting as showing the average level of intelligence and 
culture among Roman officers of the period ; the latter by 
another author and in very inferior Latin, full of grammatical 
solecisms and popular idioms oddly mixed up with epic 
phrases from Ennius, who was still, it must be remembered, 
the great Latin school-book. It is these curious fragments 
of history which more than anything else help us to under- 
stand the rapid decay of Latin prose after the golden 
period. Under the later Republic the educated class and 
the governing class had, broadly speaking, been the same. 
The Civil wars, in effect, took administration away from 
their hands, transferring it to the new official class, of which 
these subalterns of Caesar's represent the type; and this 
change was confirmed by the Empire. The result was a 
sudden and long-continued divorce between political activity 
on one hand and the profession of letters on the other. 
For a century after the establishment of the Empire the 
aristocracy, which had produced the great literature of the 
Republic, remained forcibly or sullenly silent ; and the new 
hierarchy was still at the best only half educated. The 
professional man of letters was at first fostered and sub- 
sidised; but even before the death of Augustus State 
patronage of literature had fallen into abeyance, while the 
cultured classes fell more and more back on the use of 

82 Latin Literature, p. 

Greek. The varying fortunes of this struggle between 
Greek and literary Latin as it had been formed under the 
Republic, belong to a later period: at present we must 
return to complete a general survey of the prose of the 
Ciceronian age. 

Historical writing at Rome, as we have seen, had hitherto 
been in the form either of annals or memoirs. The latter 
were, of course, rather materials for history than history 
itself, even when they were not excluded from Quintilian's 
famous definition of history * by being composed primarily 
as political pamphlets. The former had so far been 
attempted on too large a scale, and with insufficient equip- 
ment either of research or style, to attain any permanent 
merit. In the ten years after Caesar's death Latin history 
was raised to a higher level by the works of Sallust, the first 
scientific historian whom Italy had produced. 

Gains Sallustius Crispus of Amiternum in Central Italy 
belonged to that younger generation of which Marcus 
Antonius and Marcus Caelius Rufiis were eminent examples. 
Clever and dissipated, they revolted alike from the severe 
traditions and the narrow class prejudices of the con- 
stitutional party, and Caesar found in them enthusiastic, if 
somewhat imprudent and untrustworthy, supporters. Sal- 
lust was expelled from the senate just before the outbreak 
of the Civil war ; was reinstated by Caesar, and entrusted 
with high posts in lUyria and Italy; and was afterwards 
sent by him to administer Africa with the rank of proconsul. 
There he accumulated a large fortune, and, after Caesar's 
death, retired to private life in his beautiful gardens on the 
Quirinal, and devoted himself to historical study. The 
largest and most important of his works, the five books of 
Htstoriaey covering a period of about ten years from the 
death of Sulla, is only extant in inconsiderable fragments ; 
but his twofmonographs\on the Jugurthine war and the 

* Historia scribitur ad narrandum non ad probandum : Inst. Or., 
X. i. 31. 

VII.] SallusL 83 

Catilinarian conspiracy, which have been preserved, place 
him beyond doubt in the first rank of Roman historians. 

Sallust took Thucydides as his principal literary model. 
His reputation has no doubt suffered by the comparison 
which this choice makes inevitable; and though Quintilian 
did not hesitate to claim for him a substantial equality with 
the great Athenian, no one would now press the parallel, 
except in so far as Sallust's formal treatment of his 
subject affords interesting likenesses or contrasts with 
the Thucydidean manner. \ In his prefatory remarks, his 
elaborately conceived and executed speeches,! his reflec- 
tions on character, and'^/his terse method of narration, 
Sallust closely follows the manner of his master. He 
even copies his faults in a sort of dryness of style and 
an excessive use of antithe^. But we cannot feel, in 
reading the Catilhie or the Jugurthay that it is the work 
of a writer of the very first intellectual power. Yet 
the two historians have this in common, v^hich is not bor- 
rowed by the later from the earlier, — that they approach 
and handle their subject with the mature mind, the insight 
and common sense of the grown man, where their prede- 
cessors had been- comparativefy like children. Both are 
totally free from superstition; neither allows his own 
political views to obscure his vision of facts, of men as they 
were and events as they happened. The respect for truth, 
which is the first virtue of the historian, is stronger in 
Sallust than in any of his more brilliant successors. His 
ideal in the matter of research and documentary evidence 
was, for that age, singularly high. In the Catiline he writes 
very largely from direct personal knowledge of men and 
events ; but the Jugu rtha, which deals with a time two gen- 
erations earlier than the date of its composition, involved 
wide inquiry and much preparation. He had translations 
made from original documents in the Carthaginian language ; 
and a complete synopsis of Roman history, for reference 
during the progress of his work, was compiled for him by 

$4 Latin Literature, * [I. 

a Greek secretary. Such pains were seldom taken by a 
Latin historian. 

The last of the Ciceronians, Sallust is also in a sense the 
first of the imperial prose-writers. His style, compressed, 
rhetorical, and very highly polished, is in strong contrast 
to the graceful and fluid periods which were then, and for 
some time later continued to be, the predominant fashion, 
and foreshadows the manner of Seneca or Tacitus. His 
archaism in the use of pure Latin, and, alongside of it, his 
free adoption of Grecisms, are the first open sign of two 
movements which profoundly affected the prose of the 
earlier and later empire. The acrid critic of the Augustan 
age, Asinius Pollio, accused him of having had collections 
of obsolete words and phrases made for his use out of "Cato 
and the older Roman writers. For a short time he was 
eclipsed by the brilliant and opulent style of Livy; but 
Livy formed no school, and Sallust on the whole remained 
in the first place. The ^ line of Martial, primus Romana 
Crispus in historia, expresses the settled opinion held of 
him down to the final decay of letters ; and even in the 
Middle Ages he remained widely read and highly esteemed. 
^^ Contemporary with Sallust in this period of transition 
between the Ciceronian and the Augustan age is Cornelius 
Nepos {circ, 99-24 B.C.). In earlier life he was one of the 
circle of Catullus, and after Cicero's death was one of the 
chief fHends of Atticus, of whom a brief biography, which 
he wrote after Atticus' death, is still extant. Unlike Sallust, 
Nepos never took part in public affairs,' but carried on 
throughout a long life the part of a man of letters, honest 
and kindly, but without any striking originality or ability. 
In him we are on the outer fringe of pure literature ; and 
it is no doubt purposely that Quintilian wholly omits him 
from the list of Roman historians. Of his numerous writ- 
ings on history, chronology, and grammar, we only possess a 
fragment of one, his collection of Roman and foreign biogra- 
phies^ entitled De Viris lUustribus, Of this work there 

VIL] • Nepos a?id Varro. 85 

is extant one complete section, De Excellentibus Ducibus 
Exterarum Gentium^ and two lives from another section, 
those of Atticus and the younger Cato. The accident of 
their convenient length and the simplicity of their language 
has made them for generations a common school-book for 
beginners in Latin ; were it not for this, there can be little 
doubt that Nepos, like the later epitomators, Eutropius or 
Aurelius Victor, would be hardly known except to pro- 
fessional scholars, and perhaps only to be read in the pages 
of some Corpus Scriptorum Romanorum, The style of 
these little biographies is unpretentious, and the language 
fairly pure, though without any great command of phrase. 
A theory was once held that what we possess is merely a 
later epitome from the lost original. But for this there is 
no rational support. The language and treatment, such as 
they are (and they do not sink to the level of the histories 
of the African and Spanish wars), are of this, and not of a 
later age, and quite consonant with the good-natured con- 
tempt which ^epos met at the hands of later Roman critics. 
The chief interestof the work is perhaps the clearness with 
which it enforces the tjruth we are too apt to forget, that 
the great writers were in their own age, as now, unique, 
and that there is no such thing as a widely diffused level 
of high literary excellence. 

As remote from literature in the higher sense were the 
innumerable writings of the Ciceronian age on science, art, 
antiquities, grammar, rhetoric, and a hunared miscellaneous 
subjects, which are, for the most part, known only from 
notices in the writings of later commentators and encyclo- 
pedists. Foremost among the voluminous authors of this 
class was the celebrated antiquarian, Marcus Terentius 
Varro, whose long and laborious Hfe, reaching from two 
years after the death of the elder Cato till the final estab- 
lishment of the Empire, covers and overlaps the entire 
Ciceronian age. Of the six or seven hundred volumes which 
issued from his pen, and which formed an inexhaustible 

86 Latin Literature. [L 

qtxairy for his sucoessais, nearly all are lost The most 
important of them were the one hxmdred and fifty books 
of Saiurae Mtniffeae, miscellanies in prose and verse 
in the manner which had been originated by Menippns of 
Gadan, Ijbe master of the celebrated Melcager, and which 
had at once obtained an enormous popularity throughout the 
whole of the Greek-speaking world ; the forty-one books of 
Antiquitates Rtrum Huwuinarum etDivinarum^ the standard 
work on the religious and secular antiquities of Rome down 
to the time c^ Augustine ; the fifteen books of Imutgines, 
iHographical sketches, with portraits, of celebrated Greeks 
and Romans, the first certain instance in h istory <^ the 
publication of an illustrated book; the twenty-five books 
Df Lingua LaOna, of which six are extant in an im- 
perfect condition ; and the treatise Lk Re RusUca^ which 
we possess in an almost complete state. This last work 
was written at the age of eighty. It is in die form of a 
dialogue, and is not without descriptive and dramatic power. 
The tedkmsness which characterised all Varro's writing is 
less felt where the snliject is one of which he had a thorough 
practical knowledge, and which gave ample scope for the 
vein of roug^ but not ungenial humour which he inherited 
horn Cato. 

Other names of this epoch have left no permanent mark 
on literature. The precursors of Sallust in history seem, 
like the precursors of Cicero in philosophy, to have 
approached their task with litde more equipment than that 
of the ordinary amateur. The great orator Hortensius 
wrote Annals (probably in the form of memoirs of his own 
time), which are only known from a reference to them in 
a later history written in the reign of Tiberius. Atticus, 
who had an interest in Uterature beyond that of the mere 
publisher, drew up a sort of handbook of Roman history, 
which is repeatedly mentioned by Cicero. Cicero's own 
brother Quintus, who passed for a man of letters, com- 
posed a work of the same kind ; the tragedies with which 

.a^tJai— I fc  I • ma,- . .:s_i«.. ^. 

VIL] Pudlilius Syrus. 87 

he relieved the tedium of winter-quarters in Gaul were, 
however, translations from the Greek, not originals. Cicero's 
private secretary, Marcus TuUius Tiro, best known by the 
system of shorthand which he invented or improved, and 
which for long remained the basis of a standard code, is 
also mentioned as the author of works on grammar, and; 
as has already been noticed, edited a collection of his 
master's letters after his death. Decimus Laberius, a 
Roman of equestrian family, and Publilius Syrus, a natural- 
ised native of Antioch, wrote mhne^ which were performed 
with great applause, and gave a fugitive literary importance 
to this trivial form of dramatic entertainment. A collec- 
tion of sentences which passes under the name of the 
latter was formed out of his works under the Empire, and 
enlarged from other sources in the Middle Ages. It 
supplies many admirable instances of the terse vigour of 
the Roman popular philosophy; some of these lines, like 
the famous — 

Bene vixit is qui poiuit cum voluitmori^ 

or — 

Judex damnatur ubi nocens absoivifur, 

or — 

O vitam misero longatn^ felici brevem! 

or the perpetually misquoted — 

Stultum facit foriunay quern vult perdere^ 

have sunk deeper and been more widely known than almost 
anything else written in Latin. Among the few poets who 
succeeded the circle of Catullus, the only one of interest is 
Publius Terentius Varro, known as Varro Atacinus from 
his birthplace on the banks of the Aude in Provence, the 
first of the long list of Transalpine writers who filled Rome 
at a later period. Besides the usual translations and 
adaptations from Alexandrian originals^ and an elabprato 

Latin Literature. [I. 

cosnu^raphy, he practised his considerable talent in hexa- 
meter verse bodi in epic and satiric poetry, and did some- 
thing to dear the way in metrical techniqae for botii Horace 
and VirgiL With diese names, among a crowd of others 
even more vagne and ^ladowy, the literature of the Roman 
Republic doses. A new genCTation was akeady at the 









PuBuus Vergiuus Maro was bom at the village of Andes, 
near Mantua, on the 15 th of October, 70 B.C. The 
province of Cisalpine Gaul, though not formally incorpo- 
rated with Italy till twenty years later, had before this 
become thoroughly Romanised, and was one of the princi- 
pal recruiting grounds for the legions. But the population 
was still, by blood and sympathy, very largely Celtic ; and 
modem theorists are fond of tracing the new element of 
romance, which Virgil introduced with such momentous 
results into Latin poetry, to the same Celtic spirit which 
in later ages flowered out in the Arthurian legend, and 
inspired the whole creative literature of mediaeval Europe. 
To the countrymen of Shakespeare and Keats it will not 
seem necessary to assume a Celtic origin, on abstract 
grounds, for any new birth of this romantic element. The 
name Maro may or may not be Celtic; any argument 
founded on it is of little more relevance than the fancy 
which once interpreted the name of Virgil's mother, Magia 
Folia, into a supernatural significance, and, connecting the 
name Virgilius itself with the word Virgo, metamorphosed 
the poet into an enchanter bom of a maiden mother, the 
Merlin of the Roman Empire. 

Virgil's father was a small freeholder in Andes, who 
farmed his own land, practised forestry and bee-keeping, 


92 Latin Literature. [II. 

and gradually accumulated a sufficient competence to 
enaUe him to give his son — an only child, so &r as can be 
ascertained — the best education that the times could pro- 
Tide. He was sent to school at the neighbouring town of 
Cremona, and afterwards to Milan, the capital dty of the 
pnmnce. At the age of seventeen he proceeded to Rome, 
where he studied oratory and philosophy under the best 
masters of the time. A tradition, which the dates make 
improbable, was that Gains Cktavius, afterwards the Em- 
peror Augustus, was for a time his feUow-scholar under 
the rhetorician Epidius. In the class-room of the Epicu- 
rean Siro he may have made his first acquaintance with the 
poetry of Lucretius. 

For the next ten years we know nothing of Viigil*s life, 
which no doubt was diat of a profound student. His 
Either had died, and his mother married again, and his 
patrimony was sufficient to support him until a turn of 
the wheel of public affiurs for a moment lost, and then 
permanendy secured his fortune. After die batde of 
I^iilippi, the first task of the victorious triumvirs was to 
provide for the disbanding and setdement of the immense 
armies which had been raised for the Civil war. The 
lands of cities which had taken the Republican side were 
confiscate right and left for this purpose; among the 
rest, Virgirs ^irm, which was included in the teiritory 
of Cremona. But Viigil found in the administrator of the 
district. Gains Asinius PoUio, himself a distinguished critic 
and man of letteis, a poweHul and active patron. By his 
influence and that of his fiiends, Cornelius Gallus and 
Alfenus Varus — the former a soldier and poet, the latter an 
eminent jurist, who both had been feDow-students of Viigil 
at Rome — Virgil ^i^s^comjpensated by an estate in Campania, 
and introduced to the intimate circle of Octavian^ who, 
under the terms of the triumvirate, was already absolute 
ruler of Italy. 

It was about this time that the EcJogues were published. 

I.] Virgil. 93 

whether separately or collectively is uncertain, though the 
final collection and arrangement, which is Virgil's own, 
can hardly be later than 38 B.C. The impression they 
made on the world of letters was immediate and universal. 
To some degree no doubt a reception was secured to them 
by the influence of Maecenas, the Home Minister of 
Octavianus, who had already taken up the line which he so 
largely developed in later years, of a public patron of art 
and letters in the interest of the new government. But had 
Virgil made his first public appearance merely as a Court 
poet, it is probable that XhQ Eclogues would have roused 
little enthusiasm and little serious criticism. Their true 
significance seems to have been at once realised as marking 
the beginning of a new era ; and amid the storm of criticism, 
laudatory and adverse, which has raged round them for so 
many ages since, this cardinal fact has always remained 
prominent. Alike to the humanists or the earlier Renais- 
sance, who found in them the sunrise of a golden age of 
poetry and the achievement of the Latin conquest over 
Greece, and to the more recent critics of this century, for 
whom they represeqted the echo of an already exhausted 
convention and the beginning of the decadence of Roman 
poetry, the Eclogues have been the real turning-point, not 
only between two periods of Latin literature, but between 
two worlds. 

The poems destined to so remarkable a significance are, 
in their external form, close and careful imitations of 
Theocritus, and have all the vices and weaknesses of imitative 
poetry to a degree that could not well be exceeded. Nor 
are these failings redeemed (as is to a certain extent true of 
the purely imitative work of Catullus and other poets) by 
any brilliant jewel-finish of workmanship. The execution 
is uncertain, hesitating, sometimes extraordinarily feeble. 
One well-known line it is impossible to explain otherwise 
than as a mistranslation of a phrase in Theocritus such as 
one would hardly expect from an average schoolboy. When 

94 Latin Literature, [II. 

Virgil follows the convention of the Greek pastoral hisixopy 
is doubly removed from nature ; where he ventures on fresh 
impersonation or allegory of his own, it is generally weak in 
itself and always hopelessly out of tone with the rest. 
Even the versification is curiously unequal and imperfect 
•There are lines in more than one Eclogue which remind 
one in everything but their languor of the flattest parts of 
Lucretius. Contemporary critics even went so far as to 
say that the language here and there was simply not 

Yet granted that all this and more than all this is true^^ 
it does not touch that specific Virgilian charm of which 
these poems first disclosed the secret. Already through 
their immature and tremulous cadences there pierces, from 
time to time, that note of brooding pity which is unique 
in the poetry of the world. The^urth and tenth Eclogues 
may be singled out especially as showing the new method, 
which almost amounted to a new human language, as~they 
are also those where Virgil breaks away most decidedly 
from imitation of the Greek idyllists. The fourth Eclogue 
unfortunately has been so long and so deeply associated 
with purely adventitious ideas that it requires a consider- 
able effort to read it as it ought to be read. The curious 
misconception which turned it into a prophecy of the 
birth of Christ outlasted in its effects any serioua^belief in 
its historical truth : even modem critics cite Isaiah for 
parallels, and are apt to decry it as a childish attempt 
to draw a picture of some actual golden age. But the 
Sibylline verses which suggested its contents and imagery 
were really but the accidental grain of dust round which 
the crystallisation of the poem began ; and the enchanted 
light which lingers over it is hardly distinguishable from 
that which saturates the Georgics, Cedet et ipse mart vector^ 
nee nautica pinus mutabit merces — the feeling here is the 
same as in his mere descriptions of daily weather, like 
the Omnia plenis rura natantfossis atque otnnis navitaponto 

'i m 

I.] Virgil. 95 

umida vela legit; not so much a vision of a golden age as 
Nature herself seen through a medium of strange gold. 
Or again, in the tenth Eclogue, where the masque of shep- 
herds and gods passes before the sick lover, it is through 
the same strange and golden air that they seem to move, 
and the heavy lilies of Silvanus droop in the stillness of the 
same unearthly day. 

Seven years following on the publication of the Eclogues 
were spent by Virgil on the composition of the Georgics, 
They were published two years after the battle of Actium, 
being thus the first, as they are the most splendid, literary 
production of the Empire. They represent the art of Virgil 
in its matured perfection. The subject was one in which he 
was thoroughly at home and completely happy. His own 
early years had been spent in the pastures of the Mincio, 
among his father's cornfields and coppices and hives ; and 
his newer residence, by the seashore near Naples in winter, 
and in summer at his villa in the lovely hill-country of 
Campania, surrounded him with all that was most beautiful 
in the most beautiful of lands. His delicate health made 
it easier for him to give his work the slow and arduous 
elaboration that makes the Georgics in mere technical 
finish the most perfect work of Latin, or perhaps of any 
literature. There is no trace of impatience in the work. 
It was in some sense a commission; but Augustus and 
Maecenas, if it be true that they suggested the subject, had, 
at all events, the sense not to hurry it. The result more 
than fiilfilled the brilliant promise of the Eclogues, Virgil 
was now, without doubt or dispute, the first of contempo- 
rary poets. 

But his responsibilities grew with his greatness. The 
scheme of a great Roman epic, which had always floated 
before his own mind, was now definitely and indeed 
urgently pressed upon him by authority which it was 
difficult to resist. And many elements in his own mind 
drew him in the same direction. Too much stress need 

96 Latin Literature, [II. 

not be laid on the passage in the sixth Eclogue — one of 
the rare autobiographic touches is his work — in which he 
alludes to his early experiments in " singing of kings and 
battles." Such early exercises are the common field of 
young poets. But the maturing of his mind, which can 
be traced in the Georgics, was urging him towards certain 
methods of art for which the epic was the only literary 
form that gave sufficient scope. More and more he waa 
turning from nature to man and human life, and to the 
contemplation of human destiny. The _growth of the 
psychological instinct in the Georgics is curiously visible 
in the episode of Aristaeus, with which the poem now 
ends. According to a well-authenticated tradition, the 
last two hundred and fifty Unes of the fourth Georgic were 
written several years after the rest of the poem, to replace 
the original conclusion, which had contained the praises 
of his early friend, Cornelius Gallus, now dead in disgrace 
and proscribed from court poetry. In the story of Orpheus 
and Eurydice, in the later version, Virgil shows a new 
method and a new power. It stands between the idyl and 
the epic, but it is the epic method towards which it tends. 
No return upon the earlier manner was thenceforth pt)s- 
sible j with many searchings of heart, with much occasional 
despondency and dissatisfaction, he addressed himself to 
the composition of the Aeneid, 

The earlier national epics of Naevius and Ennius had 
framed certain lines for Roman epic poetry, which it was 
almost bound to follow. They had established the mythical 
connection of Rome with Troy and with the great cycle 
of Greek legend, and had originated the idea of making 
Rome itself — that Fortuna Urbis which later stood in the 
form of a golden statue in the imperial bedchamber — the 
central interest, one might almost say the central figure, 
of the story. To adapt the Homeric methods to this new 
purpose, and at the same time to make his epic the vehicle 
for all his own inward broodings over life and fate, for 

^ ] Virgil. 97 

his subtle and delicate psychology, and for that philosophic 
passion in which all the other motives and springs of life 
were becoming included, was a task incapable of perfect 
solution. On his death-bed Virgil made it his last desire 
that the Aeneid should be destroyed, nominally on the 
ground that it still wanted three years' work to bring it 
to perfection, but one can hardly doubt from a deeper 
and less articulate feeling. The command of the Emperor 
alone prevented his wish from taking effect. With the 
unfinished Aeneidy as with the unfinished poem of Lucretius, 
it is easy to see within what limits any changes or im- 
provements would have been made in it had the author 
lived longer: the work is, in both cases, substantially 

The Aeneid was begun the year after the publication 
of the GeorgicSy when Virgil was forty years of age. During 
its progress he continued to live for the most part in his 
Campanian retirement. He had a house at Rome in the 
fashionable quarter of the Esquiline, but used it little. 
He was also much in Sicily, and the later books of the 
Aetyid seem to show personal observation of many parts 
of Central Italy. It is a debated question whether he 
visited "Greece more than once. His last visit there was 
in 19 B.C. He had resolved to spend three years more 
on the completion of his poem, and then give himself up 
to philosophy for what might remain of his life. But the 
three years were not given him. A fever, caught while 
visiting Megara on a day of excessive heat, induced him 
to return hastily to Italy. He died a few days after landing 
at Brundusium, on the 26th of -September. His ashes 
were, by his own request, buried near Naples, where his 
tomb was a century afterwards worshipped as a holy place. 

The Aeneidy carefully edited from the poet's manuscript 
by two of his friends, was forthwith published, and had 
such a reception as perhaps no poem before or since has 
ever found. Already, while it was in progress, it had been 


gS Latin Literature, [II. 


rumoured as " something greater than the Iliad^^ and now 
that it appeared, it at once became the canon of Roman 
poetry, and immediately began to exercise an unparalleled 
influence over Latin literature, prose as well as verse. 
Critics were not indeed wanting to point out its defects, 
and there was still a school (which attained greater im- 
portance a century later) that went back to Lucretius 
and the older poets, and refused to allow VirgiFs pre- 
eminence. But for the Roman world at large, as since 
for the world of the Latin races, Virgil became what Homer 
had been to Greece, " the poet." The decay of art and 
letters in the third century only added a mystical and 
hieratic element to his fame. Even to the Christian Church 
he remained a poet sacred and apart : in his profound 
tenderness and his mystical " yearning after the further 
shore " as much as in the supposed prophecy of the fourth 
Eclogue, they found and reverenced what seemed to them 
like an unconscious inspiration. The famous passage of 
St. Augustine, where he speaks of his own early love for 
Virgil, shows in its half-hysterical renunciation how great 
the chartft -of -the Virgilian art had been, and still was, 
to him : Quid miserius misero, he cries, non miserante se 
ipsuntf et flente Didonis mortem quae fiebat amando Aeneam, 
non flente autem mortem meam quae fiebat non amando te ? 
Deus lumen cordis mei, non te amabam, et haec non flebam, 
sed flebam Didonem exstinctam^ferroqueextremasecutam^ 
sequens ipse extrema condita tua relic to te! * To the graver 
and more matured mind of Dante, Virgil was the lord and 
master who, even though shut out from Paradise, was 
the chosen and honoured minister of God. Up to the 
beginning of the present century the supremacy of Virgil 
was hardly doubted. Since then the development of 
scientific criticism has passed him through all its searching 
processes, and in a fair judgment his greatness has rather 
gained than lost. The doubtful honour of indiscriminate 

• Confess,^ I. xii. 

I.] Virgil, 99 

praise was for a brief period succeeded by the attacks 
of an almost equally undiscriminating censure. An ill- 
judged partiality had once spoken of the Aeneid as some- 
thing greater than a Roman Iliad: it was easy to show 
that in the most remarkable Homeric qualities the Aeneid 
fell far short, and that, so far as it was an imitation of 
Homer, it could no more stand beside Homer than the 
imitations of Theocritus in the Eclogues could stand beside 
Theocritus. The romantic movement, with its impatience 
of established fames, damned the Aeneid in one word 
as artificial ; forgetting, or not seeing, that the Aeneid was 
itself the fountain-head of romanticism. Long after the 
theory of the noble savage had passed out of political 
and social philosophy it lingered in literary criticism ; and 
the distinction between " natural " and " artificial " poetry 
was held to be like that between light and darkness. It 
was not till a comparatively recent time that the leisurely 
progress of criticism stumbled on the fact that all poetry 
is artificial, and that the Iliad itself is artificial in a very 
eminent and unusual degree. 

No great work of art can be usefully judged by 
comparison with any other great work of art. It may, 
indeed, be interesting and fertile to compare one with 
another, in order to seize more sharply and appreciate 
more vividly the special beauty of each. But to press 
comparison further, and to depreciate one because it has 
not what is the special quality of the other, is to lose sight 
of the function of criticism. We shall not find in Virgil 
the bright speed, the unexhausted joy fulness, which, in 
spite of a view of life as grave as Virgil's own, make the 
Iliad and Odyssey unique in poetry ; nor, which is more 
to the point as regards the Aeneid, the narrative power, 
the genius for story-telling, which is one of the rarest of 
literary gifts, and which Ovid alone among the Latin poets 
possessed in any high perfection. We shall not find in 
him, that high and concentrated passion .which i*) .Pindar 

lOO Latin Literature, [II. 

(as afterwards in Dante) fuses the elements of thought and 
language into a single white heat. We shall not find in 
him the luminous and untroubled calm, as of a spirit in 
which all passion has been fused away, which makes the 
poetry of Sophocles so crystalline and irreproachable. Nor 
shall we find in him the great qualities of his own Latin 
predecessors, Lucretius or Catullus. All this is merely 
saying in amplified words that Virgil was not Lucretius 
or Catullus, and that still less was he Homer, or Pindar, 
or Sophocles ; and to this may be added, that he lived in 
the world which the great Greek and Latin poets had 
created, though he looked forward out of it into another. 
Yet the positive excellences of the Aeneid are so 
numerous and so splendid that the claim of its_ author to 
be the Roman Homer is not unreasonable, if it be made 
clear that the two poems are fundamentally disparate, and 
that no more is meant than that the one poet is as eminent 
in his own form and method as the other in his. In our 
haste to rest Virgil's claim to supremacy as a poet on the 
single quality in which he is unique and unapproachable 
we may seem tacitly to assent to the judgment of his 
detractors on other points. Yet the more one studies the 
Aeneid, the more profoundly is one impressed by its quality 
as a masterpiece of construction. The most adverse critic 
would not deny that portions of the poem are, both in 
dramatic and narrative quaHty, all but unsurpassed, and in 
a certain union of imaginative sympathy with their fine 
dramatic power and their stateliness of narration perhaps 
V unequalled. The story of the last agony of Troy could not 
be told with more breadth, more richness, more brilliance 
than it is told in the second book : here, at least, the story 
neither flags nor hurries; from the moment when the 
Greek squadron sets sail from Tenedos and the signal- 
flame flashes from their flagship, the scenes of the fatal 
night pass before us in a smooth swift stream that gathers 
weighjL And^ volume as it goes, till it culminates in the 

I.] Virgil, lOl 

vision of awful faces which rises before Aeneas when Venus 
lifts the cloud of mortality from his startled eyes. The 
episode of Nisus and Euryalus in the ninth book, and that 
of Camilla in the eleventh, are in their degree as admirably 
vivid and stately. The portraiture of Dido, again, in the 
fourth book, is in combined breadth and subtlety one of 
the dramatic masterpieces of human literature. It is idle 
to urge that this touch is borrowed from Euripides or that 
suggested by Sophocles, or to quote the Medea of Apol- 
lonius as the original of which Dido is an elaborate imita- 
tion. What Virgil borrowed he knew how to make his 
own ; and the world which, while not denying the tender- 
ness, the grace, the charm of the heroine of the Argo- 
nauHcay leaves the Argonautica unread, has thrilled and 
grown pale from generation to generation over the passionate 
tragedy of the Carthaginian queen. 

But before a deeper and more appreciative study of the 
Aeneid these great episodes cease to present themselves as 
detached eminences. That the Aeneid '\% unequal is true; 
that passages in it here and there are mannered, and even 
flat, is true also ; but to one who has had the patience to 
know it thoroughly, it is in its total effect, and not in the 
great passages, or even the great books, that it seems the 
most consummate achievement. Virgil may seem to us to 
miss some of his opportunities, to labour others beyond 
their due proportion, to force himself (especially in the 
later books) into material not well adapted to the distinctive 
Virgilian treatment. The slight and vague portrait of the 
maiden princess of Latium, in which the one vivid touch/ 
of her " flower-like hair " is the only clear memory we carry 
away with us, might, in different hands — in those of Apollo- 
nius, for instance, — have given a new grace and charm to 
the scenes where she appears. The funeral games at the 
tomb of Anchises, no longer described, as they had been 
in early Greek poetry, from the mere pleasure in dwelling 
upon their details, begin to become tedious before they 

I02 Latin Literature. pi. 

are over. In the battle-pieces of the last three books we 
sometimes cannot help being reminded that Virgil is rather 
wearily following an obsolescent literary tradition. But 
when we have set such passages against others which, without 
being as widely celebrated as the episode of the sack of 
Troy or the death of Dido, are equally miraculous in their 
workmanship — the end of the fifth book, for instance, or 
the muster-roll of the armies of Italy in the seventh, or, 
above all, the last hundred and fifty lines of the twelfth, 
where Virgil rises perhaps to his very greatest manner — 
we shall not find that the splendour of the poem depends 
on detached passages, but far more on the great manner 
and movement which, interfused with the unique Vir- 
gilian tenderness, sustains the whole structure through and 

The merely technical quality of Virgil's art has never 
been disputed. The Latin hexameter, "the stateliest 
measure ever moulded by the lips of man," was brought 
by him to a perfection which made any further develop- 
ment impossible. Up to the last it kept taking in his 
hands new^ refinements of rhythm and movement which 
make the later "books of the Aeneid (the least successfiil 
part of the poem in general estimation) an even more 
fascinating study to the lovers of language than* the more 
formally perfect work of the Georgics, or the earlier books 
of the Aeneid itself. A brilliant modem critic has noted 
this in words which deserve careful study. "The innova- 
tions are individually hardly preceptible, but taken together 
they alter the character of the hexameter line in a way 
more easily felt than described. Among the more definite 
changes we may note that there are more full stops in the 
middle of lines, there are more elisions, there is a larger 
proportion of short words, there are more words repeated, 
more assonances, and a freer use of. the emphasis gained by 
the recurrence of verbs in the same or cognate tenses. 
Where passages thus characterised have come down to us 

I-] Virgil. 103 

still in the making, the effect is forced and fragmentary; 
where they succeed, they combine in a novel manner the 
rushing freedom of the old trochaics with the majesty 
which is the distinguishing feature of Virgil's style. Art 
has concealed its art, and the poet's last words suggest to 
us possibilities in the Latin tongue which no successor has 
been able to realise." Again, the psychological interest 
and insight which keep perpetually growing throughout 
VirgiPs work result in an almost unequalled power of ex- 
pressing in exquisite language the half-tones and delicate 
shades of mental processes. The famous simile in the 
twelfth Aeneid — 

Ac velut in somnis oculos ubi languida pressit 
Node quieSf nequiquam avidos extendere cursus 
Velle videmur, et in mediis conatibus aegri 
Succidtmus, nee lingua valet, nee corpore notae 
Sufficiunt vires aut vox et verba sequuntur — 

is an instance of the amazing mastery with which he makes 
language have the effect of music, in expressing the subtlest 
processes of feeling. 

But the specific and central charm of Virgil lies deeper 
than in any merely technical quality. ^ The word which 
expresses it most nearly is that of pity. In the most famous 
of his single lines he speaks of the " tears of things ; " just 
this sense of tears, this voice that always, in its most sustained 
splendour and in its most ordinary cadences, vibrates with 
a strange pathos, is what finally places him alone among 
artists. This thrill in the voice, come colui che piange e dice, 
is never absent from his poetry. In the "lonely words," 
in the " pathetic half-lines " spoken of by the two great 
modern masters of English prose and verse, he perpetually 
touches the deepest springs of feeling ; in these it is that 
he sounds, as no other poet has done, the depths of beauty 
and sorrow, of patience and magnanimity, of honour in 
life and hope beyond death. 

I04 Latin Literature, [II. 

A certain number of minor poems have come down to 
us associated more or less doubtfully with Virgil's name. 
Three of these are pieces in hexameter verse, belonging 
broadly to the class of the epyllion, or/'Httle epic," which 
was invented as a convenient term to include short poems 
in the epic metre that were not definitely pastorals either 
in subject or treatment, and which the Alexandrian poets, 
headed by Theocritus, had cultivated with much assiduity 
and considerable success. The most important of them, 
the Cuiex, or Gnat^ is a poem of about four hundred lines, 
in which the incident of a gnat saving the life of a sleeping 
shepherd from a serpent and being crushed to death in the 
act is made the occasion of an elaborate description of the 
infernal regions, from which the ghost of the insect rises 
to reproach his unconscious murderer. That Virgil in his 
youth wrote a poem with this title is established by the 
words of Martial and Statius; nor is there any certain 
argument against the Virgilian authorship of the extant 
poem, but various delicate metrical considerations incline 
recent critics to the belief that it is from the hand of an 
almost contemporary imitator who had caught the Virgilian 
manner with great accuracy. The Ciris, another piece of 
somewhat greater length j on the story of Scylla and Nisus, 
is more certainly the production of some forgotten poet 
belonging to the circle of Marcus Valerius Messalla, and is 
of interest as showing the immense pains taken in the 
later Augustan age to continue the Virgilian tradition. The 
third poem, the Moretum, is at once briefer and slighter in 
structure and more masterly in form. It is said to be a 
close copy of a Greek original by Parthenius of Nicaea, 
a distinguished man of letters of this period who taught 
Virgil Greek; nor is there any grave improbability in 
supposing that the Moretum is really one of the early exer- 
cises in verse over which Virgil must have spent years of his 
laborious apprenticeship, saved by some accident from the 
fate to which his own rigorous judgment condenmed the rest. 

t] VirgiL 105 

So far the whole of the poetry attributed to Virgil is in 
the single form of hexameter verse, to the perfecting of 
which his whole life was devoted. The other little pieces 
in elegiac and lyric metres require but slight notice. Some 
are obviously spurious; others are so slight and juvenile 
that it matters little whether they are spurious or not. One 
elegiac piece, the Copa^ is of admirable vivacity and grace, 
and the touch in it is so singularly unlike the Virgilian 
manner as to tempt one into the paradox of its authenticity. 
That Virgil wrote much which he deliberately destroyed is 
obviously certain; his fastidiousness and his melancholy 
alike drove him towards the search after perfection, and 
his mercilessness towards his own work may be measured 
by his intention to bum the Aeneid. Not less by this 
passionate desire of unattainable perfection than by the 
sustained glory of his actual achievement, — his haunting and 
liquid rhythms, his majestic sadness, his grace and pity, — 
he embodies for all ages that secret which makes art the 
life of life itself. 



In that great turning-point of the world's history marked 
by the establishment of the Roman Empire, the position 
of Virgil is so unique because he looks almost equally 
forwards and backwards. His attitude towards his own 
age is that of one who was in it rather than of it. On 
the one hand is his intense feeling for antiquity, based on 
and reinforced by that immense antiquarian knowledge 
which made him so dear to commentators, and which 
renders some of his work so difficult to appreciate from 
our mere want of information ; on the other, is that per- 
petual brooding over futurity which made him, within a 
comparatively short time after his death, regarded as a 
prophet and his works as in some sense oracular. The 
Sortes Vergilianae^ if we may believe the confused gossip 
of the Augustan History, were almost a State institution, 
while rationalism was still the State creed in ordinary 
matters. Thus, while, in a way, he represented and, as it 
were, gave voice to the Rome of Augustus, he did so in 
a transcendental manner; the Rome which he represents, 
whether as city or empire, being less a fact than an idea, 
and already strongly tinged with that mysticism which we 
regard as essentially mediaeval, and which culminated later 
without any violent breach of continuity in the conception 
of a spiritual Rome which was a kingdom of God on earth, 


II.] Horace. 107 

and of which the Empire and the Papacy were only two 
imperfect and mutually complementary phases ; quella Roma 
onde Crista e Romano^ as it was expressed by Dante with 
his characteristic width and precision. 

To this mystical temper the whole mind and art of 
Virgil's great contemporary stands in the most pointed 
contrast. Msre than almost any other poet of equal 
eminence, Horace lived in the present and actual world; 
it is^ionly when he turns aside from it that he loses himself. 
Certain external similarities of method there are between 
them — above all, in that mastery of verbal technique which 
made the Latin language something new in the hands of 
both. Both were laborious and indefatigable artists, and 
in their earlier acquaintanceship, at all events, were close 
personal friends. But the five years' difference in their ages 
represents a much more important interval in their poetical 
development. The earlier work of Horace, in the years 
when he was intimate with Virgil, is that which least shows 
the real man or the real poet ; it was not till Virgil, sunk 
in his Aeneid, and living in a somewhat melancholy retire- 
ment far away from Rome, was within a few years of his 
death, that Horace, amid the gaiety and vivid life of the 
capital, found his true scope, and produced the work that 
has made him immortal. 

Yet the earlier circumstances of the two poets* lives had 
been not unlike. Like Virgil, Horace sprang from the 
ranks of the provincial lower middle class, in whom the 
virtues of industry, frugality, and sense were generally 
accompanied by little grace or geniality. But he was 
exceptionally fortunate in his father. This excellent man, 
who is always spoken of by his son with a deep respect 
and affection, was a freedman *of Venusia in Southern 
Italy, who had acquired a small estate by his economies as 
a collector of taxes in the neighbourhood. Horace must 
have shown some unusual promise as a boy ; yet, according 
to his own accoimt, it was less from this motive than from 

io8 Latin Literature, pi. 

a disinterested belief in the value of education that his 
&ther resolved to give him, at whatever personal sacrifice, 
every advantage that was enjoyed by the children of the 
highest social class. The boy was taken to Rome about 
the age of twelve — ^ Virgil, a youth of seventeen, came there 
from Milan about the same time — and given the best 
education that the capital could provide. Nor did he 
stop there ; at eighteen he proceeded to Athens, the most 
celebrated university then existing, to spend several years 
in completing his studies in literature and philosophy. 
While he was there the assassination of Caesar took place, 
and the Civil war broke out. Marcus Brutus occupied 
Macedonia, and swept Greece for recruits. The scarcity of 
Roman officers was so great in the newly levie(I~ legions 
that the young student, a boy of barely twenty-one, with 
no birth or connection, no experience, and no military or 
organising ability, was not only accepted with eagerness, 
but at once given a high commission. He served in the 
Republican army till Philippi, apparently without any 
flagrant discredit ; after the defeat, like many of his com- 
panions, he gave up the idea of further resistance, and made 
the best of his way back to Italy. HjeLfomuLJus little 
estate forfeited, but he was not so important a person that 
he had to fear proscription, and with the strong common 
sense which he had already developed, he bought or begged 
himself a small post in the civil service which just enabled 
him to live. Three years, iater he was introduced by Virgil 
to Maecenas, and his uninterrupted prosperity began. 

Did we know more of the history of Horace's life in the 
interval between his leaving the university and his becoming 
one of the circle of recognised Augustan poets, much in his 
poetical development might be less perplexing to us. The 
effect of these years was apparently to throw him back, 
to arrest or thwart what would have been his natural 
growth. No doubt he was one of the men who (like Caesar 
or Cromwell in other fields of action) develop late; but 


II.] Horace. 109 

something more than this seems needed to account for the 
extraordinary weakness and badness of his first volume of 
lyrical pieces, published by him when he was thirty-five. 
In the first book of the Satires, produced about five years 
earlier, he had shown much of his admirable later qualities, 
— humour, sense, urbanity, perception, — but all strangely 
mingled with a vein of artistic vulgarity (the worst perhaps 
of all vulgarities) which is totally absent from his matured 
writing. It is not merely that in this earlier work he is 
often deliberately coarse — that was a literary tradition, 
from which it would require more than ordinary originality 
to break fi*ee, — but that he again and again allows himself 
to fall into such absolute flatness as can only be excused 
on the theory that his artistic sense had been checked or 
crippled in its growth, and here and there disappeared in 
his nature altogether. How elaborate and severe the self- 
education must have been which he undertook and carried 
through may be guessed from the vast interval that sepa- 
rates the spirit and workmanship of the Odes from that of 
the EpodeSy and can partly be traced step by step in the 
autobiographic passages of the second book of Satires and 
the later Epistles. We are ignorant in what circumstances 
or under what pressure the Epodes were published; it is 
a plausible conjecture that their faults were just such as 
would meet the approbation of Maecenas, on whose favour 
Horace was at the time almost wholly dependent; and 
Horace may himself have been glad to get rid, as it were, 
of his own bad immature work by committing it to publicity. 
The celebrated passage in Keats* preface to Endymion, 
where he gives his reasons for publishing a poem of whose 
weakness and faultiness he was himself acutely conscious, 
is of very wide application ; and it is easy to believe that, 
after the publication of the Epodes, Horace could turn with 
an easier and less embarrassed mind to the composition of 
the Odes. 

Meanwhile he was content to be known as a writer of 

no Latin Literature, [11. 

satire, one whose wish it was to bring up to an Augustan 
polish the Hterary form already carried to a high degree 
of success by Lucilius. The second book of Satires was 
published not long after Xht Epodes, It shows in every 
way an enormous advance over the first. He has shaken 
himself free from the imitation of Lucilius, which alternates 
in the earliest satires with a rather bitter and self-conscious 
depreciation of the work of the older poet and his suc- 
cessors. The prosperous turn Horace's own life had taken 
was ripening him fast, and undoing the bad effects of earlier 
years. We have passed for good out of the society of 
Rupilius Rex and Canidia. At one time Horace must 
have run the risk of turning out a sort of ineffectual 
Francois Villon ; this, too, is over, and his earlier education 
bears fruit in a temper of remarkable and delicate gifts. 

This second book of Satires marks in one way the 
culmination of Horace's powers. The brilliance of the 
first years of the Empire stimulated the social aptitude and 
dramatic perception of a poet who lived in the heart of 
Rome, already free from fear or ambition, but as yet un- 
touched by the melancholy temper which grew on him in 
later years. He employs the semi-dramatic form of easy 
dialogue throughout the book with extraordinary lightness 
and skill. The familiar hexameter, which Lucilius had left 
still cumbrous and verbose, is like wax in his hands ; his 
perfection in this use of the metre is as complete as that of 
Virgil in the stately and serious manner. And behind this 
accomplished, literary method lies an unequalled perception 
of common human nature, a rich vein of serious and quiet 
humour, and a power of language the more remarkable 
that it is so unassuming, and always seems as it were to 
say the right thing by accident. With the free growth of 
his natural humour he has attained a power of self-apprecia- 
tion which is unerring. The Satires are full from end to 
end of himself and his own affairs ; but the name of egoism 
cannot be apphed to any self-revelation or self-criticism 

no Horace. 1 1 1 

which is so just and so certain. _From the opening lines 
of the first satire, where he notes the faults of his own 
earlier work, to the last line of the book, with its Parthian 
shot at Canidia and the jeunesse orageuse that he had so 
long left behind, there is not a page which is not full of 
that self-reference which, in its truth and tact, constantly 
passes beyond itself and holds up the mirror to universal 
human nature. In reading the Satires we all read our own 
minds and hearts. 

Nearly ten years elapsed between the publication of the 
second book of the Satires and that of the first book of 
ihs "Epistles, Horace had passed meanwhile into later 
middle life. He had in great measure retired from society, 
and lived more and more in the quietness of his little estate 
among the Sabine hills. Life was still full of vivid interest ; 
but books were more than ever a second world to him, 
and, like Virgil, he was returning with a perpetually in- 
creasing absorption to the Greek philosophies, which had 
been the earliest passion of his youth. Years had brought 
the philosophic mind ; the more so that these years had 
been filled with the labour of the Odes, a work of the 
highest and most intricate effort, and involving the constant 
study of the masterpieces of Greek thought and art. The 
"monument more imperishable than bronze" had now 
been completed ; its results are marked in the Epistles by 
a new and admirable maturity and refinement. Good 
sense, good feeling, good taste, — these qualities, latent from 
the first in Horace, had obtained a final mastery over the 
coarser strain with which they had at first been mingled ; ^ 
and in their shadow now appear glimpses of an inner 
nature even more rare, from which only now and then he 
lifts the veil with a sort of delicate self-depreciation, in an 
occasional line of sonorous rhythm, or in some light touch 
by which he gives a glimpse into a more magical view of 
life and nature : the earliest swallow of spring on the coast, 
the mellow autumn sunshine on a Sabine coppice, the 

112 Latin Literature. pi. 

everlasting sound of a talking brook ; or, again, the unfor- 
gettable phrases, the fallentis semita vitae^ or quod petis hie 
estf or ire tamen restat, that have, to so many niinds in so 
many ages, been key-words to the whole of life. 

It is in the Epistles that Horace reveals himself _most 
intimately, and perhaps with the most subtle charm. But 
the great work of his life, for posterity as well as for his 
own age, was the three books of Odes which were published 
by him in"23*'Brc., at the age of forty-two, and represent 
the sustained eflfort -of about ten years. This collection 
of eighty-eight lyrics was at once taken to the heart of 
the world. Before a volume of which every other line 
is as familiar as a proverb, which embodies in a quintes- 
sential form that imperishable delight of literature to which 
the great words of Cicero already quoted* give such 
beautiful expression, whose phrases are on all men's lips 
as those of hardly any other ancient author have been, 
criticism is almost silenced. In the brief and graceful 
epilogue, Horace claims for himself, with no uncertainty and 
with no arrogance, such eternity as earth can give. The 
claim was completely just. The school-book of the 
European world, the Odes have been no less for nineteen 
centuries the companions of mature years and the delight 
of age — adoiescentiam agunt^ senectutem oblectant, may be 
said of them with as much truth as ever now. Yet no 
analysis will explain their indefinable charm. If the so- 
called " lyrical cry " be of the essence of a true lyric, they 
are not true lyrics at all. Few of them are free from a 
marked artificiality, an almost rigid adherence to canon. 
Their range of thought is not great ; their range of feeling 
is studiously narrow. Beside the air and fire of a lyric of 
Catullus, an ode of Horace for the moment grows pale 
and heavy, cineris specie decoloratur. Beside one of the 
pathetic half-lines of Virgil, with their broken gleams and 
murmurs as of another world, a Horatian phrase loses lustre 

♦iS«//-a, p. 68. 

II.] Horace. 113 

and sound. Yet Horace appeals to a tenfold larger audience 
than Catullus — to a larger audience, it may even be said, 
than Virgil. Nor is he a poets* poet : the refined and 
exquisite technique of the Odes may be only appreciable 
by a trained artist in language ; but it is the untrained mind, 
on whom other art falls flat, that the art of Horace, by 
some unique penetrative power, kindles and quickens. 
His own phrase of "golden mediocrity" expresses with 
some truth the paradox of his poetry ; in no other poet, 
ancient or modern, has such studied and unintermitted 
mediocrity been wrought in pure gold. By some tact or 
instinct — the " felicity," which is half of the famous phrase 
in which he is characterised by Petronius — he realised that, 
limited as his own range of emotion was, that of mankind 
at large was still more so, and that the cardinal matter was 
to strike in the centre. Wherever he finds himself on the 
edge of the range in which his touch is certain, he draws 
back with a smile; and so his concentrated effect, within 
his limited but central field, is unsurpassed, and perhaps 

This may partly explain how it was that with Horace^ 
the Latin lyric stops dead. His success was so immediate 
and so immense that it fixed the limit, so to speak, for 
future poets within the confined range which he had chosen 
to adopt ; and that range he had filled so perfectly that no 
room was left for anything but imitation on the one hand, 
or, on the other, such a painfiil avoidance of imitation as 
would be equally disastrous in its results. With the 
principal lyric metres, too, the sapphic and alcaic, he had 
done what Virgil had done with the dactyHc hexameter, 
carried them to the highest point of which the foreign Latin 
tongue was capable. They were naturalised, but remained 
sterile. When at last Latin lyric poetry took a new develop- 
ment, it was by starting afresh from a wholly different point, 
and by a reversion to types which, for the culture of the 
early imperial age, were obsolete and almost non-existent. 


114 Latin Literature. [U 

The phrase, verbis felicissime audax, used of Horace as 
a lyric poet by Quintilian, expresses, with something less 
than that fine critic's usual accuracy, another quality which 
goes far to make the merit of the Odes. Horace's use of 
words is, indeed, remarkably dexterous; but less so from 
happy daring than from the tact which perpetually poises 
and balances words, and counts no pains lost to find the 
word that is exactly right. His audacities — if one cares to 
call them soi — in the use of epithet, in Greek constructions 
(which he uses rather more freely than any other Latin 
poet), and in allusive turns of phrase, are all carefully 
calculated and precisely measured. His unique power of 
compression is not that of the poet who suddenly flashes 
out in a golden phrase, but more akin to the art of the 
distiller who imprisons an essence, or the gem-engraver 
working by minute touches on a fragment of translucent 
stone. With very great resources of language at his disposal, 
he uses them with singular and scrupulous frugality ; in his 
measured epithets, his curious fondness for a number of 
very simple and abstract words, and the studious simplicity 
of effect 'in his most elaborately designed lyrics, he reminds 
one of the method of Greek bas-reliefs, or, still more (after 
allowing for all the difference made by religious feeling), 
of the sculptured work of Mino of Fiesole, with its pale 
colours and carefully ordered outlines. Phrases of ordinary 
prose, which he uses freely, do not, as in Virgil's hands, 
turn into poetry by his mere use of them ; they give rather 
than receive dignity in his verses, and only in a few rare 
instances, like the stately Motum ex Metello consule civicutity' 
are they completely fused into the structure of the poem. 
So, too, his vivid and clearly-cut descriptions of nature in 
single lines and phrases stand out by themselves like golden 
tesserae in a mosaic, each distinct in a glittering atmosphere 
— qua tumidus rigat arva Nilus ; opacam portitus excipiebat 
Arc ton ; nee prata canis albicant pruinis — a hundred phrases 
like these, all exquisitely turned, and all with the same 

II.] Horace. 115 

effect of detachment, which makes them akin to sculpture, 
rather than painting or music. Virgil, as we learn from 
an interesting fragment of biography, wrote his first drafts 
swiftly and copiously, and wrought them down by long 
labour into their final structure; with Horace we may 
rather imagine that words came to the surface slowly and 
one by one, and that the Odes grew like the deposit, cell 
by cell, of the honeycomb to which, in a later poem, he 
compares his own workmanship. In some passages where 
the Odes flag, it seems as though material had failed him 
before the poem was finished, and he had filled in the gaps, 
not as he wished, but as he could, yet always with the same 
deliberate gravity of workmanship. 

Horatii curiosa felicitas — this, one of the earliest criti- 
cisms made on the Odes, remains the phrase which most 
completely describes their value. Such minute elaboration, 
on so narrow a range of subject, and within such confined 
limits of thought and feeling, could only be redeemed from 
dulness by the perpetual felicity — something between luck 
and skill — that was Horace's secret. How far it was happy 
chance, how far deliberately aimed at and attained, is a 
question which brings us before one of the insoluble 
problems of art; we may remind ourselves that, in the 
words of the Greek dramatist Agathon, which Aristotle was 
so fond of quoting, skill and chance in all art cling close 
to one another. "Safe in his golden mediocrity," to use 
the words of his own counsel to Licinius, Horace has some- 
how or another taken deep hold of the mind, and even the 
imagination, of mankind. This very mediocrity, so fine, so 
chastened, so certain, is in truth as inimitable as any other 
great artistic quality ; we must fall back on the word genius, 
and remember that genius does not confine itself within 
the borders of any theory, but works its own will. 

With the publication of the three books of the Odes^ and 
the first book of the Epistles^ Horace's finest and maturest 
work was complete. In the twelve years of his life which 

Ii6 Latin Literature. [IL 

were still to run he published but little^ jxcaLJsjt here any 
reason to suppose that he wrote more than he published. 
In i j "B.a7 Tie comp^dri5y~ sjpecia l command, an ode "to 

of the Secular GameT. Ttetask 

"sung at the celebration 
was one m which he was much hampered by a stringent 
religious convention, and the result is interesting, but not 
very happy. We may admire the skill with which formu- 
laries of the national worship are moulded into the sapphic 
stanza, and prescribed language, hardly, if at all, removed 
from prose, made to run in stately, though stiff and monot- 
onous, verse ; b^i^j^IT ^lltn^'^^*^^" ^'g ^^ ^^^ i>gg nuity, not o f 
the poetry. The Jubilee Ode written by Lord Tennyson 
is cunOttsty like the Carmen Seculare in its metrical in- 
genuities, and in the way in which the unmistakeable 
personal note of style sounds through its heavy and formal 

F our years later a fourth b ^ftfc pf (^^^^ was publi sbed^the 
greater part of which j:o£siste of poems ks^.distinctly,officiijil 
than ^€'^ctiIar*SRmn. but written with reference to pubHc 
affairs * by the direct commsuad of the JEmp^xprj^some in 
celebration of the victories of Drusus and Tiberius on the 
north-eastern frontier, and others in more general praise of 
the peace and external prosperity established throughout 
Italy under the new government. Together with these 
official pieces he included some others : an early sketch for 
the Carmen Seculare^ a curious fragment of literary criticism 
in the form of an ode addressed to one of the young aris- 
tocrats who followed the fashion of the Augustan age in 
stud)dng and writing poetry, and eight pieces of the same 
kind as his earlier odes, written at various times within the 
ten years which had now passed since the publication of 
the first three books. An introductory poem, of graceful 
but half-ironical lamentation over the passing of youth, 
seems placed at the head of the little collection in studious 
depreciation of its importance. Had it not been for the 
necessity of publishing the official odes, it is probable 


II.] Horace • WJ 

enough that Horace would have left these few later lyrics 
ungathered. They show the same care and finish in 
workmanship as the rest, but there is a certain loss of 
brilliance ; except one ode of mellow and refined beauty, 
the famouis Diffugere nivesy they hardly reach the old level. 
The creative impulse in Horace had never been very 
powerful or copious; with growing years he became less 
interested in the achievement of literary artifice, and turned 
more completely to his other great field, the criticism of 
life and literature. To the concluding years of his life 
belong the three delightful essays in verse which complete 
the Ust of his works. Two of these, which are placed 
together as a second book of Epistles, seem to have been 
published at about the same time as the fourth book of the 
Odes, The first, addressed to the Emperor, contains the 
most matured and complete expression of his views on 
Latin poetry, and is in great measure a vindication of the 
poetry of his own age against the school which, partly from 
literary and partly from political motives, persisted in giving 
a preference to that of the earlier Republic. In the second, 
inscribed to one of his younger friends belonging to the 
circle of Tiberius, he reviews his own hfe as one who was 
now done with literature and literary fame, and was giving 
himself up to the pursuit of wisdom. The melancholy of 
temperament and advancing age is subtly interwoven in his 
final words with the urbane humour and strong sense that 
had been his companions through hfe : — 

Lusisii satis, edisti satis atque bibisti, 
Tempus abire tibi est, ne potum largius aequo 
Rideat et pulse t lasciva decentius aetas. 

A new generation, clever, audacious, and corrupt, had  
silently been growing up under the Empire. Ovid was 
thirty, and had published his Amores, The death of Virgil 
had left the field of serious poetry to Uttle men. The 
younger race bad learned only too well the lesson of minute 

Ii8 Latin Literature. [II. 

care and formal polish so elaborately taught them by the 
earlier Augustan poets, and had caught the ear of the town 
with work of superficial but, for the time, captivating 
brilliance. Gloom was already beginning to gather round 
the Imperial household; the influence of Maecenas, the 
great support of letters for the last twenty years, was fast on 
the wane. In the words just quoted, with their half-sad 
and half-mocking echo of the famous passage of Lucretius,* 
Horace bids farewell to poetry. 

Bui4iterary criticism^ in which - he had so finp i tiB tf^, nn d 
on 4Kbich he_was..a recognised. authont2;,_XQntinued to 
inter fifit him ; and the more seriously mmded of the younger 
poets turned to him for advice, which he was always willing 
to give. The Epistteto the^^PisM^^i>^^ 
under the name of the Art of Poetry y seems to have^een 
composed at intervals during these later years, and was, 
perhaps, not published till after his death in the year 8 B.C. 
It is a discussion of dramatic poetry, largely based on 
Greek text-books, but full of Horace's own experience and 
of his own good sense. Young aspirants to poetical fame 
regularly began with tragedies ; and Horace, accepting this 
as an actual fact, discusses the rules of tragedy with as 
much gravity as if he were dealing with some really Hving 
and national form of poetry. This discursive and fragmentary 
essay was taken in later ages as an authoritative treatise; 
and the views expressed by Horace on a form of poetical 
art with which he had little practical acquaintance had, 
at the revival of literature, and even down to last century, 
an immense influence over the structure and development 
of the drama. Just as modem comedy based itself on 
imitation of Plautus and Terence, and as the earliest 
attempts at tragedy followed haltingly in the steps of 
Seneca, so as regards the theory of both, Horace, and not 
the Greeks, was the guiding influence. 

Among the many amazing achievements of the Greek 

* Supra, p. 48. 

II.] Horace, i ig 

genius in the field of human thought were a lyrical poetry 
of unexampled beauty, a refined critical faculty, and, later 
than the great thinkers and outside of the strict schools, a 
temperate philosophy of life such as we see afterwards in the 
beautifiil personality of Plutarch. In all these three Horace 
interpreted Greece to the world, while adding that peculiarly 
Roman urbanity — the spirit at once of the grown man as 
distinguished from children, of the man of the world, and 
of the gentleman — which up till now has been a dominant 
ideal over the thought and life of Europe. 





Those years of the early Empire in which the names 
of Virgil and Horace stand out above all the rest were 
a period of great fertility in Latin poetry. Great poets 
naturally bring small poets after them; and there was no 
age at Rome in which the art was more assiduously 
practised or more fashionable in society. The Court set a 
tone which was followed in other circles, and more espe- 
cially among the younger men of the old aristocracy, now 
largely excluded from the public life which had engrossed 
their parents under the Republic. The influence of the 
Alexandrian poets, so potent in the age of Catullus, was 
not yet exhausted ; and a wider culture had now made the 
educated classes familiar with the whole range of earlier 
Greek poetry as well. Rome was full of highly educated 
Greek scholars, some of whom were themselves poets of 
considerable merit. It was the fashion to form libraries; 
the public collection, formed by Augustus, and housed in 
a sumptuous building on the Palatine, was only the largest 
among many others in ftie great houses of Rome. The 
earlier Latin poets had known only a small part of Greek 
literature, and that very imperfectly; their successors had 
been trammelled by too exclusive an admiration of the 
Greek of the decadence. Virgil and Horace, though pro- 
fessed students of the Alexandrians, had gone back them- 
selves, and had recalled the attention of the pubUc, to the 


III.] Augustan Tragedy. 121 

poets of free Greece, and had stimulated the widely felt 
longing to conquer the whole field of poetry for the Latin 

For this attempt, tradition and circumstance finally 
proved too strong ; and Augustan poetry, outside of these 
two great names, is largely a chronicle of failure. This 
was most eminently so in the drama. Augustan tragedy 
^eeras never to have risen for a moment beyond mere 
academic exercises. Of the many poets who attempted it, 
nothing survives beyond a string of names. Lucius Varius 
Rufus, the intimate friend of both Virgil and Horace, and 
one of the two joint-editors of the Aeneid after the death 
of the former, wrote one tragedy, on the story of Thyestes, 
which was acted with applause at the games held to 
celebrate the victory of Actium, and obtained high praise 
from later critics. But he does not appear to have repeated 
the experiment ; like so many other Latin poets, he turned 
to the common path of annalistic epic. Augustus himself 
began a tragedy of Ajax^ but never finished it. Gains 
Asinius PoUio, the first orator and critic of the period, and 
a magnificent patron of art and science, also composed 
tragedies more on the antique model of Accius and Pacuvius, 
in a dry and severe manner. But neither in these, nor 
in the work of the young men for whose benefit Horace 
wrote the Epistle to the Pisos^ was there any real vitality ; 
the precepts of Horace could no more create a school 
of tragedians than his example could create a school of 
lyric poets. 

The poetic forms, on the other hand, used by Virgil were 
so much more on the main line of tendency that he stands 
among a large number of others, some of whom might have 
had a high reputation but for his overwhelming superiority. 
Of the other essays made in this period in bucolic poetry 
we know too Uttle to speak with any confidence. But 
both didactic poetry and the little epic were largely culti- 
vated, and the greater epic itself was not without followers. 

122 Latin Literature. pi. 

The extant poems of the Culex and Ciris have ab-eady 
been noted as showing with what skill and grace unknown 
poets, almost if not absolutely contemporary with Virgil, 
could use the slighter epic forms. Varius, when he 
abandoned tragedy, wrote epics on the death of Julius 
Caesar, and on the achievements of Agrippa. The few 
fragments of the former which survive show a remarkable 
power and refinement; Virgil paid them the sincerest of 
all compliments by conveying, not once only but again and 
again, whole lines of Varius into his own work. Another 
intimate friend of Virgil, Aemilius Macer of Verona, wrote 
didactic poems in the Alexandrian manner on several 
branches of natural history, which were soon eclipsed by the 
fame of the Georgics, but remained a model for later 
imitators of Nicander. One of these, a younger contem- 
porary of Virgil called Gratius, or Grattius, was the author 
of a poem on hunting, still extant in an imperfect form. 
In its tame and laboured correctness it is only interesting 
as showing the early decay of the Virgilian manner in the 
hands of inferior men. 

A more interesting figure, and one the loss of whose 
works is deeply to be regretted, is that of Gaius Cornelius 
Grgllus, the earliest and one of the most brilliant of the 
Augustan poets. Like Varro Atacinus, he was bom in 
Narbonese Gaul, and brought into Roman poetry a new 
touch of Gallic vivacity and sentiment. The year of his 
birth was the same as that of VirgiPs, but his genius matured 
much earlier, and before the composition of the Eclogues he 
was already a celebrated poet, as well as a distinguished 
man of action. The history of his life, with its swift rise 
from the lowest fortune to the splendid viceroyalty of 
Egypt, and his sudden disgrace and death at the age of 
forty- three, is one of the most dramatic in Roman history. 
The translations from Euphorion, by which he first made 
his reputation, followed the current fashion ; but about the 
same time he introduced a new kind of poetry, the erotic 

III.] Callus. 123 

elegy, which had a swift and far-reaching success. To 
Gallus, more than to any other single poet, is due the 
nat uralisati on in Latin of the elegiac couplet, which, together 
with the lyrics ot Horace and the Virgilian hexameter, 
makes up the threefold poetical achievement of the Augustan 
period, and which, after the Latin lyric had died out with 
Horace himself, halved the field with the hexameter. For 
the remaining literature of the Empire, for that of the Middle 
Ages so far as it followed classical models, and even for 
that of the Renaissance, which carries us down to within 
a measurable distance of the present day, the hexameter as 
fixed by Virgil, and the elegiac as popularised by Gallus 
and rapidly brought to perfection by his immediate followers, 
are the only two poetical forms of real importance. 

The elegiac couplet had, of course, been in use at Rome 
long before ; Ennius himself had employed it, and in the 
Ciceronian age Catullus had written in it largely, and not 
without success. But its successful use had been hitherto 
mainly confined to short pieces, such as would fall within 
the definition of the Greek epigram. The four books 
of poems in which Gallus told tBe story of his passion 
for the courtesan Cytheris (the Lycoris of the tenth 
Eclogue) showed the capacities of the metre in a new light. 
The fashion they set was at once followed by a crowd of 
poets. The literary circles of Maecenas and Messalla had 
each their elegiac poet of the first eminence ; and the early 
death of both Propertius and Tibullus was followed, amid 
the decline of the other forms of the earlier Augustan 
poetry, by the consummate briUiance of Ovid. 

Of the Augustan elegiac poets, Sextus Propertius, a native 
of Assisi in Umbria, and introduced at a very early age to 
the circle of Maecenas, is much the most striking and 
interesting figure, not only from the formal merit of his 
poetry, but as representing a type till then almost unknown 
in ancient literature. Of his life little is known. Like 
Virgil, he lost his patrimonial property in the confiscations 

124 Latin Literature. [II. 

which followed the Civil war, but he was then a mere child. 
He seems to have been introduced to imperial patronage 
by the publication of the first book of his Elegies at the age 
of about twenty. He died young, before he was thirty-five, 
if we may draw an inference from the latest allusions in his 
extant poems; he had then written four other books of 
elegiac pieces, which were probably published separately 
at intervals of a few years. In the last book there is a 
noticeable widening of range of subject, which foreshadows 
the further development that elegiac verse took in the 
hands of Ovid soon after his death. 

In striking contrast to Virgil or Horace, Propertius is 
a genius of great and, indeed, phenomenal precocity. His 
first book of Elegies, the Cynthia monobiblos of the gram- 
marians, was a literary feat comparable to the early achieve- 
ments of Keats or Byron. The boy of twenty had already 
mastered the secret of elegiac verse, which even Catullus 
had used stiffly and awkwardly, and writes it with an ease, 
a colour, a sumptuousness of rhythm which no later poet 
ever equalled. The splendid cadence of the opening 

couplet — ^ ^ , - ^ ^ - . . / ^ -. J - ^ ^ - ' / 
Cynthia^prima suis miserum me cepitocellis 

ContackiTn nuilis'ante ^upidinibus—r ^-.j 0;j - 

must have come on its readers with the shock of a new 
revelation. Nothing like it had ever been written in Latin 
before : itself and alone it assures a great future to the 
Latin elegiac. His instinct for richness of sound is equally 
conspicuous where it is found in purely Latin phrases, as in 
the opening of the sixteenth elegy — 

Quaefueram magnis olim patefacta triumphis 

lanua Tarpeiae nota pudicitiae 
Cuius inaurati celebrarunt limina currus 

Captorum lacrimis uniida supplicibus, 

and where it depends on a lavish use of Greek ornament, as 
in the opening of the third — 

III.] Propertitis, 125 

Qualis Thesea iacuit cedente carina 
Languida desertis Gnosia litoribus, 

Qualis et accubuit primo Cepheia somno 
Libera iam duris cotibus Andromede, . 

Even when one comes to them fresh from Virgil, lines like 
these open a new world of sound. The Greek elegiac, as it 
is known to us by the finest work of the epigrammatists, had 
an almost unequalled flexibility and elasticity of rhythm ; 
this quality Propertius from the first seized, and all but 
made his own. By what course of reasoning he was led in 
his later work to suppress this large and elastic treatment, 
and approximate more and more closely to the fine but 
somewhat limited and metallic rhythm which has been 
perpetuated by the usage of Ovid, we cannot guess. In 
this first book he ends the pentameter freely with words of 
three, four, and five syllables ; the monotony of the per- 
petual dissyllabic termination, which afterwards became the 
normal usage, is hardly compensated by the increased 
smoothness which it gives the verse. 

But this new power of versification accompanied a new 
spirit even more remarkable, which is of profound import 
as the precursor of a whole school of modem European 
poetry. The CyntKia is the first appearance in literature 
of the neurotic young man, who reappeared last century 
in Rousseau's Confessions and Goethe's Werther, and who 
has dominated a whole side of French literatiure since 
Alfred de Musset. The way had been shown half a 
century before by that remarkable poet, Meleager of 
Gadara, whom Propertius had obviously studied with keen 
appreciation. Phrases in the Cynthia, like — 

Turn mihi constantis deiecit luminafastus 
Et caput impositis pressit Amor pedibus^ 
or — 

Qui non ante patet donee manus attigit ossa^ 

are in the essential spirit of Meleager, and, though not 


126 Latin Literature, [II. 

verbally copied from him, have the precise quality of his 
rh3rthms and turas of phrase. But the abandonment to 
sensibility, the absorption in self-pity and thfi.,.sfintiment 
of passion, are carried by Propertius to a far greater length. 
The self-abasement of a line like — 

Sis quodcumque voles ^ non aUena tameriy 

is in the strongest possible contrast to that powerful 
passion which fills the poetry of Catullus, or to the 
romantic tenderness of the Eclogues; and in the extraordi- 
nary couplet — 

Me sifUy quern semper voluit fortuna iacere, 
Hanc anitnam extremae reddere nequitiae^ 

" the expense of spirit in a waste of shame " reaches its 
culminating point. This tremulous self-absorption, rather 
than any defect of eye or imagination, is the reason of 
the extraordinary lapses which now and then he makes 
both in description and in sentiment. The vivid and 
picturesque sketches he gives of fashionable life at watering- 
places and country-houses in the eleventh and fourteenth 
elegies, or single touches, hke that in the remarkable 
couplet — 

Me mediae noctes^ me sidera prona iaceniem^ 
Frigidaque Eoo me dolet aura gelu^ 

show that where he was interested neither his eye nor his 
language had any weakness; but, as a rule, he is not 
interested either in nature or, if the truth be told, in 
C)mthia, but wholly in himself. He ranks among the 
most learned of the Augustan poets ; but, for want of the 
rigorous training and self-criticism in which Virgil and 
Horace spent their lives, he made on the whole but a 
weak and ineffective use of a natural gift perhaps equal 
to either of theirs. Thus it is that his earliest work is 
at the same time his most fascinating and brilliant. After 
the Cynthia he rapidly became, in the mordant phrase 


in.j Propertius. 127 

used by Heine of De Musset, un jeune homme (Tun Men 
beau passe. S ome prem onition of early death seems to 
have h aunted him; and the want of self-control in his 
poetry may reflect actual physical weakness united with 
his vivid imagination. 

The second and third books of the Elegies,^ though 
they show some technical advance, and are without the 
puerilities which here and there occur in the Cynthiay 
are on the whole immensely inferior to it in interest and 
charm. There is still an occasional Une of splendid 
beauty, like the wonderful — 

Sunt apud infernos tot milia formosarum ; 

an occasional passage of stately rh3rthm, like the lines 
beginning — 

Quandocunque tgitur nostros mors clausit ocellos ; 

but the smooth versification has now few surprises; the 
learning is becoming more mechanical ; there is a tendency 
to say over again what he had said before, and not to say 
it quite so well. 

Through these two books Cynthia is still the main 
subject. But with the advance of years, and his own 
growing fame as a poet, his passion — if that can be called 
a passion which was so self-conscious and so sentimental — 
fell away from him, and left his desire for literary repu- 
tation the really controlling motive of his work. In the 
introductory poem to the fourth book there is a new and 
almost aggressive tone with regard to his own position 
among the Roman poets, which is in strong contrast to 
the modesty of the epilogue to the third book. The 
inflated invocation of the ghost of Caliimachus laid him 
fatally open to the quietly disdainful reference by which, 
without even mentioning Propertius by name, Horace met 

* These are the two parts of what is printed as book iL in the older 

12$ Lafm Literature. JJL 

A a year or two later in the second book of the EfisUes, 
But even Horace is not in£dlible ; and Propertiiis was, at 
all events, justified in regarding himself as the head of a 
new school of poetry, and one which struck its roots wide 
and deep. 

In the fourth and fifth books of the Elegies there is a 
wide range of subject ; the verse is being tested for various 
purposes, and its flexibility answers to almost every de- 
mand. But already we feel its fatal facility. The passage 
beginning Atque ubi iam Venerem, in the poem where he 
contrasts his own life with those of the followers of riches 
and ambition, is a dilution into twelve couplets of eight 
noble lines of the Georgics, with an effect almost as feeble, 
if not so grotesque, as that of the later metaphrasts, who 
occupied themselves in turning heroic into elegiac poems 
by inserting a pentameter between each two lines. The 
sixth elegy of the same book is nothing but a cento of 
translations from the Anthology, strung together and fastened 
up at the end by an original couplet in the worst and 
most puerile manner of his early writing. On the other 
hand, these books include fresh work of great merit, and 
some of great beauty. The use of the elegiac metre to 
tell stories from Graeco-Roman mythology and legendary 
Roman history is begun in several poems which, though 
Propertius has not the story-telling gift of Ovid, showed 
the way to the delightful narratives of the Fasti. A few 
of the more personal elegies have a new and not very 
agreeable kind of realism, as though De Musset had been 
touched with the spirit of Flaubert In one, the ninth 
of the fourth book, the realism is in a different and 
pleasanter vein; only Herrick among English poets has 
given such imaginative charm to straightforward descrip- 
tions of the ordinary private life of the middle classes. 
Tlie fifth book ends with the noble elegy on Cornelia^ 
the wife of Faulus Aemiliijs Lepidus, in which all that 
k best in Propertius* nature at last finds splendid and 


TIL] Propertiui\ 129 

memorable expression. It has some of his common fail- 
ings, — passages of inappropriate learning, and a little falling 
off towards the end. But where it rises to its height, in 
the lines familiar to all who know Latin, it is unsurpassed 
in any poetry for grace and tenderness. 

• Nunc tibi commendo communia pignora natos; 

Haec cura et cineri spirat inusta meo. 
Fungere matemis vicibus pater : ilia meorum 

Omnis erit collo turba fovenda tuo, 
Oscula cum dederis tua flentibus^ adice matris ; 

Tola domus coepit nunc onus esse tuum, 
Et siquid doliturus eris, sine testibus illis I 

Cum venient, siccis oscula falle genis : 
Sat tibi sint nodes quas de me, PaukyfaAges^ 

Somniaque in faciem reddita saepe meam. 


In these lines, hardly to be read without tears, Propertius 
for once rises into that clear air in which art passes beyond 
the reach of criticism. What he might have done in 
this new manner had he lived longer can only be con- 
jectured; at the same age neither Virgil nor Horace had 
developed their full genius. But the perpetual recurrence 
in the later poems of that brooding over death, which had 
already marked his juvenile work, indicates increasing 
exhaustion of power. Even the sparkling elegy on the 
perils of a lover's rapid night journey from Rome to Tibur 
passes at the end into a sombre imagination of his own 
grave ; and the fine and remarkable poem (beginning with 
the famous Sunt aliquid Manes) in which the ghost of 
Cynthia visits him, is full of the same morbid dwelling 
on the world of shadbws, where the " golden^ girl" awaits 
her forgetful lover. Atque hoc sollicitum vince sopore caput 
had become the sum of his prayers. But a little while 
afterwards the restless brain of the poet found the sleep 
that it had so long desired. 
At a time when literary criticism was so powerful at 


130 Latin Literature. pi. 

Rome, and poetry was ruled by somewhat rigid canons 
of taste, it is not surprising that more stress was laid on 
the defects than on the merits of Propertius* poetry. It 
evidently annoyed Horace ; and in later times Propertius 
remained the favourite of a minority, while general taste 
preferred the more faultless, if less powerfully original, 
elegiacs of his contemporary, Albius Tibullus. "This pleasing 
and graceful poet was a few years older than Propertius, 
and, like him, died at the age of about thirty-five. He 
did not belong to the group of court poets who formed 
the circle of Maecenas, but to a smaller school under 
the patronage of Marcus Valerius Messalla, a distinguished 
member of the old aristocracy, who, though accepting the 
new government and loyal in his service to the Emperor, 
held somewhat aloof from the court, and lived in a small 
literary world of his own. Tibullus published in his lifetime 
two books of elegiac poems ; after his death a third volume 
was published, containing a few of his posthumous pieces, 
together with poems by other members of the same circle. 
Of these, six are elegies by a young poet of the upper 
class, writing under the name of Lygdamus, and plausibly 
conjectured to have been a near relative of Tibullus. One, 
a panegyric on Messalla, by an unknown author, is without 
any poetical merit, and only interesting as an average 
specimen of the amateur poetry of the time when, in the 
phrase of Horace — 

Populus calet una 
Scribendi studio; pueri patresque severi 
Fronde comas vincti cenant et carmina dictant 

The curious set of little poems going under the name 
of Sulpicia, and included in the volume, will be noticed 

Tibullus might be succinctly and perhaps not unjustly 
described as a Virgil without the genius. The two poets 
died in the same year, and a contemporary epigram speaks 


III.] Tibullus. 131 

of them as the recognised masters of heroic and elegiac 
verse ; while the famous tribute of Ovid, in the third book 
of the AmoreSy shows that the death of Tibullus was regarded 
as fin overwhelming loss by the general world of letters. 
" P]^cg.,^nd fine," the well-chosen epithets of Quintilian, 
are in themselves no slight praise; and the poems reveal 
a gentleness of nature and sincerity of feeling which make 
us think^^of-their author less with admiration than with a 
sort of quiet affection. No two poets could be more 
strongly contrasted than Tibullus and Propertius, even 
when their subject and manner of treatment approximate 
most closely. In Tibull us the eagernes s, the audacity, the 
irregular brilliance o f Prop ertius are wholly^ a[jse»t-i-^&^aie 
the leverisn self-consciousness and the want of good taste 
and good sense which are e quallv ch aracteristic of the latter. 
Poetry is with him, not the outburaLof passion, or the 
fruit of high imagination, but the natural and refined 
expression of sincere feeling in equable and melodious 
verse. The delightful epistle addressed to him by Horace 
shows how high he stood in the esteem and affection of 
a severe critic, and a man whose friendship was not lightly 
won or lavishly expressed. He stands easily at the head 
of Latin poets of the second order. In deligacy^ in refine- 
ment,, in grace of rhythm and d ictioi^ he cannot be easily 
surpassed; he only wants the final and incommunicable 
touch of genius which separates really great artists from the 
rest of the world. 



The Peace of the Empire, secured by the victory of Ac- 
tium, and fully established during the years which followed 
by Augustus and his lieutenants, inaugurated a new era of 
social life in the capital. The saying of Augustus, that he 
found Rome brick and left it marble, may be applied 
beyond the sphere of mere architectural decoration. A 
French critic has well observed that now, for the first time, 
the Court and the City existed in their full meaning. Both 
had an organised life and a glittering external ease such 
as was hardly known again in Europe till the reign of 
the Grand Monarque. The enormous accumulated wealth 
of the aristocracy was in the mass hardly touched by all 
the waste and confiscations of the civil wars ; and, in spite 
of a more rigorous administration, fi-esh accumulations 
were continually made by the new official hierarchy, and 
flowed in from all parts of the Empire to feed the luxury 
and splendour of the capital. Wealth and peace, the in- 
creasing influence of Greek culture, and the absence of 
political excitement, induced a period of brilliant laxity 
among the upper classes. The severe andfrug^ morals 
of the Republic still survived in great families, as well as 
among that middle class, from which the Empire drew 
its solid support; but in fashionable society there was 
a marked and rapid relaxation of morals which was vainly 
combated by stringent social and sumptuary legislation. 


IV.] Julia and Sulpicia. 133 

The part taken by women in social and political life is 
among the most powerful factors in determining the general 
aspect of an age. This, , which had already been great 
under the later Republic, was now greater than ever. The 
Empress Livia was throughout the reign of Augustus, 
and even after his death, one of the most important 
persons in Rome. Partly under her influence, partly from 
the temperament and policy of Augustus himself, a sort 
of court Puritanism grew up, like that of the later years of 
Louis Quatorze. The aristocracy on the whole disliked 
and despised it ; but the monarchy was stronger than they. 
The same gloom overshadows the end of these two long 
reigns. Sentences of death or banishment fell thick among 
the leaders of that gay and profligate society; to later 
historians it seemed that all the result of the imperial policy 
had been to add hypocrisy to profligacy, and incidentally to 
cripple and silence literature. 

Of this later Augustan period Ovid is the representative 
poet. The world in which he lived may be illustrated by 
a reference to two ladies of his acquaintance, both in 
different ways singularly typical of the time. Julia, the 
only daughter of Augustus, still a mere child when her 
father became master of the world, was brought up with 
a strictness which excited remark even among those who 
were familiar with the strict traditions of earlier times. 
Married, when a girl of fourteen, to her cousin, Marcus 
Claudius Marcellus; after his death, two years later, to 
the Emperor's chief Ueutenant, Marcus Agrippa; and a 
third time, when he also died, to the son of the Empress 
Livia, afterwards the Emperor Tiberius, — she was through- 
out treated as a part of the State machinery, and as some- 
thing more or less than a woman. But she turned out 
to be, in fact, a woman whose beauty, wit, and recklessness 
were alike extraordinary, and who rose in disastrous revolt 
against the system in which she was forced to be a pivot. 
Ailike by birth and genius she easily took the first place 

134 Latin Literature. [II. 

in Roman society ; and under the very eyes of the Emperor 
she multiplied her lovers right and left, and launched out 
into a career that for years was the scandal of all Rome. 
When she had reached the age of thirty-seven, in the same 
year when Ovid^s Art of Love was published, the axe 
suddenly fell ; she was banished, disinherited, and kept till 
her death in rigorous imprisonment, almost without the 
necessaries of life. Such were the firstfruits of the social 
reform inaugurated by Augustus and sung by Horace. 

In the volume of poems which includes the posthumous 
elegies of TibuUus, there is also contained a group of short 
pieces by another lady of high birth and social standing, 
a niece of Messalla and a daughter of Servius Sulpicius, 
and so belonging by both parents to the inner circle of 
the aristocracy. Nothing is known of her life beyond what 
can be gathered from the poems. But that they should 
have been published at all, still more that they should have 
been published, as they almost certainly were, with^ the 
sanction of Messalla, is a striking instance of the unique 
freedom enjoyed by Roman women of the upper classes, 
and of their disregard of the ordinary moral conventions. 
The only ancient parallel is in the period of the Aeolic 
Greek civilisation which produced Sappho. The poems, 
are addressed to her lover, who (according to the fashion 
of the time — like Catullus' Lesbia or Propertius' Cynthia) 
is spoken of by a Greek name, but was most probably 
a young Roman of her own circle. The writer, a young, 
and apparently an unmarried woman, addresses him with 
a frankness of passion that has no idea of concealment. 
She does not even take the pains to seal her letters to 
him, though they contain what most women would hesitate 
to put on paper. They have all the same directness, 
which sometimes becomes a splendid simplicity. One note, 
reproaching him for a supposed infidelity — 

Si tibi cura togae potior pressumque quaHUo 
Scortum quam Servi^filia Suipicia — 


IV.] Ovid. 135 

has all the noble pride of Shakespeare's Imogen. Of the 
worid and its ways she has no girlish ignorance; but the 
talk of the world, as a motive for reticence, simply does not 
exist for her. 

Where young ladies of the upper classes had such freedom 
as is shown in these poems, and used it, the ordinary lines 
of demarcation between respectable women and women 
who are not respectable must have largely disappeared. 
It has been much and inconclusively debated whether the 
Hostia and Plania, to whom, under assumed names, the 
amatory poems of Propertius and TibuUus were addressed, 
were more or less married women (for at Rome there were 
degrees of marriage), or women for whom marriage was a 
remote and immaterial event. The same controversy has 
raged over Ovid's Corinna, who is variously identified as 
Julia the daughter of the Emperor herself, as a figment of 
the imagination, or as an ordinary courtesan. The truth is, 
that in the society so brilliantly drawn in the Art of Love, 
such distinctions were for the time suspended, and we are 
in a world which, though for the time it was living and 
actual, is as unreal to us as that of the Restoration dramatists. 

The young lawyer and man of fashion, Publius Ovidius 
Naso, who was the laureate of this gay society, was a few 
years younger than Propertius, with whom he was in close 
and friendly intimacy. The early death of both Propertius 
and Tibullus occurred before Ovid published his first 
volume; and Horace, the last survivor of the older 
Augustans, had died some years before that volume was 
followed by any important work. The period of Ovid's 
greatest fertility was the decad* immediately following the 
opening of the Christian era; he outlived Augustus by 
three years, and so laps over into the sombre period of 
the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which culminated in the reign 
of Nero. 

As the eldest surviving son of an opulent equestrian 
family of Upper Italy, Ovid was trained for the usual 

136 Latin Literatiwe, [II. 

career of civil and judicial office. He studied for the bar 
at Rome, and, though he never worked hard at law, filled 
several judicial offices of importance. But his interest was 
almost wholly in the rhetorical side of his profession; he 
" hated argument ; '* and from the rhetoric of the schools to 
the highly rhetorical poetry which was coming into fashion 
there was no violent transition. An easy fortune, a brilliant 
wit, an inexhaustible memory, and an unfailing social tact, 
soon made him a prominent figure in society; and his 
genuine love of literature and admiration for genius — 
an mingled in his case with the slightest trace of literary 
jealousy or self-consciousness — made him the friend of the 
whole contemporary world of letters. He did not begin to 
publish poetry very early ; not because he had any delicacy 
about doing so, nor because his genius took long to ripen, 
but from the good-humoured laziness which never allowed 
him to take his own poetry too seriously. When he was 
about thirty he published, to be in the fashion, a volume 
of amatory elegiacs, which was afterwards re-edited and 
enlarged into the existing three books of Amores, Probably 
about the same time he formally graduated in serious poetry 
with his tragedy of Medea, For ten or twelve years after- 
wards he continued to throw off elegiac poems, some light, 
others serious, but all alike in their easy polish, and written 
from the very first with complete and effortless mastery of 
the metre. To this period belong the HeroideSy the later 
pieces in the Amores^ the elaborate poem on the feminine 
toilet called De Medicamine Faciei, and other poems now 
lost. Finally, in 2 or i B.C., he published what is perhaps 
on the whole his most remarkable work, the three books 
De Arte Amatoria, 

Just about the time of the publication of the Art of Love^ 

the exile of the elder Julia fell like a thunderbolt on Roman 

society. Staggered for a little under the sudden blow, it 

. soon gathered itself together again, and a perpetual influx 

of younger men tiad woiiii: 1 q ilhered round her daughter 

IV.] Ovid, 137 

and namesake, the wife of Lucius Aemilius Paulus, into 
a circle as corrupt, if not so accomplished, as that of which 
Ovid had been a chief ornament. He was himself now 
forty; though singularly free from literary ambition, he 
could not but be conscious of his extraordinary powers, and 
willing to employ them on larger work. He had already 
incidentally proved that he possessed an instinct for 
narrative such as no Roman poet had hitherto had — 
such, indeed, as it would be difficult to match even in 
Greek poetry outside Homer. A bom story-teller, and 
an accomplished master of easy and melo3iDtt9-^^rse, he 
naturally turned for subjects to tfi^ inexhaustible stores of 
the Graeco^Rjoman mythology, and formed the scheme of 
his Metamorphoses and Fasti. Both poems were all but 
complete, but only the first half of the latter had been 
pubUshed, when, at the end of the year 8, his life and work 
were suddenly shattered by a mysterious catastrophe. An 
imperial edict ordered him to leave Rome on a named day, 
and take up his residence at the small barbarous town of 
Tomi, on the Black Sea, at the extreme outposts of civilisa- 
tion. No reason was assigned, and no appeal allowed. 
The cause of this sudden action on the part of the Emperor 
remains insoluble. T he_only reason ever offi ^^'^^^y C[i"^'^, 
that the publication of the^^4r/_^ /"/^n^ ('"^if;h w^*' oir^o^y 

ten years old) was'Hn offence ajgaiast jmbli c^ morals,^s jaQ 
flitniyZ tp''Tta^e jjeen 'evet' 'm^^ seriously, rhe aGusions 
Ovid himself makes to his own " error "or " crime " are 
not meant to be intelligible, and none of the many theories 
which have been advanced fully satisfies the facts. But, 
whatever may have been the cause — whether Ovid had 
become implicated in one of those aristocratic conspiracies 
against which Augustus had to exercise constant vigilance, 
or in the intrigues of the younger JuUa, or in some domestic 
scandal that touched the Emperor even more personally — 
it brought his literary career irretrievably to the ground. 
The elegies which he continued to pour forth from his ^\a5:.^ 

138 Latin Literature. pi. 

of exile, though not without their grace and pathos, struggle 
almost from the first under the crowning unhappiness of un- 
happiness, that it ceases to be interesting. The five books 
of the Tristia, written during the earlier years of his banish- 
ment, still retain, through the monotony of their subject, 
and the abject humility of their attitude to Augustus, much 
of the old dexterity. In the four books of Epistles from 
Pontus, which continue the lamentation over his calamities, 
the failure of power is evident. He went on writing pro- 
fusely, because there was nothing else to do; panegyrics 
on Augustus and Tiberius alternated with a natural history 
of fish — the Halieutica — and with abusive poems on his real 
or fancied enemies at Rome. While Augustus lived he did 
not give up hopes of a remission, or at least an alleviation, 
of his sentence ; but the accession of Tiberius, who never 
forgot or forgave anything, must have extinguished them 
finally ; and he died some three years later, still a heart- 
broken exile. 

Apart from his single tragedy, from a few didactic or 
mock-didactic pieces, imitated from Alexandrian originals, 
and from his great poem of the Metamorphoses^ the whole 
of Ovid's work was executed in the elegiac couplet. His 
earliest poems closely approximate in their management of 
this metre to the later work of Propertius. The narrower 
range of cadence allowed by the rule which makes every 
couplet regularly end in a dissyllable, involves a monotony 
which only Ovid*s immense dexterity enabled him to 
overcome. In the Fasti this dexterity becomes almost 
portentous : when his genius began to fail him, the essential 
vice of the metre is soon evident. But the usage was 
stereotyped by his example ; all through the Empire and 
through the Middle Ages, and even down to the present 
day, the Ovidian metre has been the single dominant type : 
and though no one ever managed it with such ingenuity 
again, he taught enough of the secret to make its use 
possible for almost every kind of subject His own elegiac 



IV.] Ovid, 139 

poetry covers an ample range. In the impassioned rhetoric 
of the Heroides, the brilliant pictures of life and manners 
in the De Arte Amatoria, or the sgarjcling narratives of the 
Fasd^ the same sure and swift touch is applied to widely 
diverse forms and moods.' Ovid was a trained rhetorician 
and an accomplished man of the world before he began to 
write poetry; that, in spite of his worldliness and his 
glittering rhetoric, he has so much of feeling and charm, is 
the highest proof of his real greatness as a poet. 

But this f eelin g and charm are the growth of more 
mature years. In his early poetry there is no passion and 
little sentiment. He writ es_pf { ove^ but never as a lover; 
nor, with all his quickness^jof insight and adroitness of 
impersonation, does he ever catch the lover's tone. From 
the amatory poems written in his own person one might 
judge him to be quite heartless, the mere hard_aad polished 
mirror of a corrupt society ; and in the Art of Love he 
is the keen observer of men and women whose wit and 
lucid common sense are the more insolently triumphant 
because untouched by any sentiment or sympathy. We 
know him from other sources to have been a man of really 
warm and tender feeling ; in the poetry which he wrote as 
laureate of the world of fashion he keeps this out of sight, 
and outdoes them all in cynical worldliness. It is only 
when writing in the person of a woman — as in the Phyllis 
or Laodamia of the Heroides — that he allows himself any 
approach to tenderness. The Ars Amatoria^ full as it is of 
a not unkindly humour, of worldly wisdom and fine insight, 
is perhaps the most immoral poem ever written. The most 
immoral, not the most demoralizing : he writes for an 
au3ience for whom morality, apart from the code of 
good manners which society required, did not exist; and 
wholly free as it is from morbid sentiment, the one great 
demoralizing influence over men and women, it may be 
doubted whether the poem is one which ever did any 
reader serious harm, while few works are more intellectually 

140 Latin Literature. pi. 

stimulating within a certain limited range. To readers for 
whom its qualities have exhausted or have not acquired 
their stimulating force, it merely is tiresome; and this, 
indeed, is the fate which in the present age, when wit is not 
in vogue, has very largely overtaken it 

Interspersed in the Art of Love are a number of stories 
from the old mythology, introduced to illustrate the argu- 
ment, but set out at greater length than was necessary for 
that purpose, from the active pleasure it always gives Ovid 
to tell a story. When he conceived the plan of his Meta- 
morphoses, he had recognised this narrative instinct as his 
special gift. His tragedy of Medea had remained a single 
effort in dramatic form, unless the Heroides can be classed 
as dramatic monologues. The Medea, but for two fine 
single lines, is lost ; but all the evidence is clear that Ovid 
had no natural turn for dramatic writing, and that it was 
merely a clever tour de force. In the idea of the Meta- 
morphoses he found a subject, already treated in more than 
one Alexandrian poem, that gave full scope for his narrative 
gift and his fertile ingenuity. The result was a poem as 
long, and almost as unflagging, as the Odyssey. A vast 
mass of multifarious stories, whose only connection is the 
casual fact of their involving or alluding to some transforma- 
tion of human beings into stones, trees, plants, beasts, birds, 
and the like, is cast into a continuous narrative. The 
adroitness with which this is done makes the poem rank as 
a masterpiece of construction. The atmosphere of romantic 
fable in which it is enveloped even gives it a certain 
plausibility of effect almost amounting to epic unity. In 
the fabulous superhuman element that appears in all the 
stories, and in their natural surroundings of wood, or 
mountain, or sea — always realised with fresh enjoyment and 
vivid form and colour — there is something which gives the 
same sort of unity of effect as we feel in reading the 
Arabian Nights. It is not a real world ; it is hardly even 
a world conceived as real ; but it is a world so plausible. 

" I 

IV.] Ovid. 141 

so directly appealing to simple instincts and unclouded 
senses, above all so completely take^ for granted, that the 
illusion is, for the time, all but complete. For later ages, 
the Metamorphoses became the great text-book- of classical 
mythojiigy ; the legends were understood as Ovid had told 
them, and were reproduced (as, for instance, throughout 
the whole of the painting of the Renaissance) in the spirit 
and colour of this Italian story-teller. 

For the metre of the Metamorphoses Ovid chose the 
heroic hexameter, but used it in a strikingly new and 
original way. He makes no attempt, as later poets un- 
successfully did, at reproducing the richness of tone and 
intricacy of modulation which it had in the hands of Virgil, 
Ovid's hexameter is a thing of his own. It becomes with 
him almost a new metre — light, brilliant, and rapid, but 
with some monotony of cadence, and without the deep 
swell that it had, not in Virgil only, but in his predecessors. 
The swift, equable movement is admirably adapted to the 
matter of the poem, smoothing over the transitions from 
story to story, and never allowing a story to pause or flag 
halfway. Within its limits, the workmanship is faultless. 
The style neither rises nor sinks with the variation of 
subject. One might almost say that it was without moral 
quality. Ovid narrates the treachery of Scylla or the 
incestuous passion of Myrrha with the same light and 
secure touch as he applies to the charming idyl of Baucis 
and Philemon or the love-tale of Pyramus and Thisbe ; his 
interest is in what happened, in the story for the story's 
sake. So, likewise, in the rhetorical evolution of his 
thought, and the management of his metre, he writes 
simply as the artist, with the artistic conscience as his only 
rule. The rhetorician is as strong in him as it had been 
in the Amores ; but it is under better control, and seldom 
leads him into excesses of bad taste, nor is it so over- 
mastering as not to allow free play to his better qualities, 
his kindliness, his good-humour, his ungrudging appreciation 

14^ Latin Literature. [11. 

of excellence. In his evolution of thought — or his play of 
fancy, if the expression be preferred — he hi i nn n l n r tnr is 
and precision akin to great intellectual qualities ; and it is 
this, perhaps, which has made him a favourite with so 
many great men of letters. Shakespeare himself, in his 
earlier work, alike the plays and the poems, writes in the 
Ovidian manner, and often in what might be direct imitation 
of Ovid j the motto from the Atnores prefixed to the Venus 
and Adonis is not idly chosen. Still more remarkable, 
because less superficially evident, is the affinity between 
Ovid and Milton. At first sight no two poets, perhaps, 
could seem less alike. But it is known that Ovid was one 
of Milton's favourite poets; and if one reads the Meta- 
morphoses with an eye kept on Faradi^^JLpst, th e intel lectual 
resemblance, in the manner of treatment of thought and 
language, is abundantly evident, as well in the general 
structure of their rhetoric as in the lapses of taste and 
obstinate puerilities {non ignoravit vitia sua sed amavit 
might be said of Milton also), which come from time to 
time in their maturest work. 

The Metamorphoses was regarded by Ovid himself as 
his masterpiece. In the first impulse of his despair at 
leaving Rome, he burned his own copy of the still incom- 
plete poem. But other copies were in existence; and 
though he writes afterwards as though it had been published 
without his correction and without his consent, we may 
suspect that it was neither without his knowledge nor 
against his will; when he speaks of the manus ultima as 
wanting, it is probably a mere piece of harmless affectation 
to make himself seem Ij^er the author of the Aeneid. The 
case was different with the Fasti^ the other long poem 
which he worked at side by side with the Metamorphoses. 
The twelve books of this work, dealing with the calendar 
of the twelve months, were also all but complete when he 
was banished, and the first six, if not actually published 
had, at all events, got into private circulation. At Tomi 

IV.] Ovid. 143 

he began a revision of the poem which, apparently, he never 
completed. The first half of the poem, prefaced by a fresh 
dedication to Germanicus, was published, or republished, 
after the death of Augustus, to whom, in its earlier form, 
it had been inscribed ; the second half never reached the 
public. It cannot be said that Latin poetry would be much 
poorer had the first six books been suppressed also. The 
student of metrical forms would, indeed, have lost what is 
metrically the most dexterous of all Latin poems, and the 
archaeologist some curious information as to Roman 
customs ; but, for other readers, little would be missed but 
a few of the exquisitely told stories, like that of Tarquin 
and Lucretia, or of the Rape of Proserpine, which vary the 
somewhat tedious chronicle of astronomical changes and 
national festivals. 

The poems of the years of Ovid*s exile, the Tristia and 
the Letters from Pontus, a re a melancho lv record of 
flagging vitality and failing powers. His adulation of the 
Emperor and the imperial family passes all bounds; it 
exhausts what would otherwise seem the inexhaustible 
copiousness of his vocabulary. The long supplication to 
Augustus, which stands by itself as book ii. of the Tristia^ 
is the most elaborate and skilful of these pieces ; but those 
which may be read with the most pleasure are the letters 
to his wife, for whom he had a deep affection, and whom 
he addresses with a pathos that is quite sincere. As hope 
of recall grew fainter, his work failed more and more ; the 
incorrect language and slovenly versification of some of 
the Letters from Pontus are in sad contrast to the Ovid of 
ten years before, and if he went on writing till the end, it was 
only because writing had long been a second nature to him. 

Of the extraordinary force and fineness of Ovid's natural 
genius, there never have been two opinions; had he but 
been capable of controlling it, instead of indulging it, he 
might have, in Quintilian's opinion, been second to no 
Roman poet. In his Medea, the critic adds, he did show 

144 Latin Literature, pi. 

some of this self-control ; its loss is the more to be lamented. 
But the easy good-nature of his own disposition, no less 
than the whole impulse of the literary fashion then pre- 
valent, was fatal to the continuous exercise of such severe 
self-education : and the man who was so keen and shrewd 
in his appreciation of the follies of lovers had all the weak- 
ness of a lover for the faults of his own poetry. The 
delightful story of the three lines which his critical friends 
urged him to erase proves, if proof were needed, that this 
weakness was not blindness, and that he was perfectly 
aware of the vices of his own work. The child of his time, 
he threw all his brilliant gifts unhesitatingly into the scale 
of new ideas and new fashions ; his " modernity," to use 
a current phrase of the present day, is greater than that of 
any other ancient author of anything like his eminence. 

Prisca invent alios y ego me nunc denique natum 
Gratulor: haec aetas moribus apta meis — 

this is his deliberate attitude throughout his life. 

Such a spirit has more than once in the history of the 
arts marked the point from which their downward course 
began. / do not sing the old things, for the new are far better^ 
the famous Greek musician Timotheus had said four centuries 
earlier, and the decay of Greek music was dated from that 
period. But to make any artist, however eminent, respon- 
sible for the decadence of art, is to confuse cause with effect ; 
and the note of ignominy affixed by Augustus to the Art 
of Love was as futile as the action of the Spartan ephor 
when he cut the strings away from the cithara of Timotheus. 
The actual achievement of Ovid was to perfect and popu- 
larise a poetical form of unusual scope and flexibility; to 
throw a vivid and lasting life into the world of Graeco- 
Roman mythology; and, above all, to complete the work 
of Cicero and Horace in fixing a certain ideal of civilised 
manners for the Latin Empire and for modem Europe. 
He was not a poet of the first order ; yet few poets of the 
first order have done a work of smcK wide importance. 



The Ciceronian age represents on the whole the culmina- 
tion of Latin prose, as the Augustan does the culmination 
of Latin poetry. In the former field, the purity of the 
language as it had been used by Caesar and Cicero could 
hardly be retained in a period of more diffused culture ; and 
the influence of the schools of rhetoric, themselves based 
on inferior Greek models, became more and more marked. 
Poetry, too, was for the time more important than prose, 
and one result was that prose became infected with certain 
qualities of poetical style. The reign of Augustus includes 
only one prose writer of the first rank, the historian Titus 

Though not living like Virgil or Horace in the immediate 
circle of Augustus and under direct court patronage, Livy 
was in friendl y relations with the Empero r and his family, 
and accepted_the__iieHLrule with cordiality, if without much 
enthusiasm. Of his life, which seems to have been wholly 
spent in literary pursuits, little is known. He was born at 
Padua in the year of Julius Caesar's first consulship, and 
had survived Augustus by three years when he died at the 
age of seventy-five. In earlier life he wrote some philo- 
sophical dialogues and treatises on rhetoric which have not 
been preserved. An allusion in the first book of his history 
shows that it was written, or at all events published, after 
the first and before the second closing of the temple of 
L 145 


146 Latin Literature, pi. 

Janus by Augustus, in the years 29 and 25 b.c. For forty 
years thereafter he continued this colossal task, which, like 
the Decline and Faiiy was published in parts from time to 
time. He lived to bring it 4own as far as the death of 
Drusus, the younger son of the Empress Livia, in the year 
9 B.C. The division into books, of which there were one 
hundred and forty- two in the whole work, is his own ; these 
again were arranged in voluminay or sections issued as 
separate volumes, and containing a varying number of 
books. The division of the work into decads was made 
by copyists at a much later period, and was no part of the 
author's own plan. Only one- fourth of the whole history 
has survived the Middle Ages. This consists of the first, 
the third, the fourth, and half of the fifth decad, or books 
i.-x. and xxi.-xlv. of the work ; of the rest we only possess 
brief tables of contents, drawn up in the fourth century, not 
from the original work but from an abridgment, itself now 
lost, which was then in use. The scale of the history is 
very different in the two surviving portions. The first 
decad carries it from the foundation of the city through 
the Regal and early Republican periods down to the third 
Samnite war, a period of four centuries and a half. The 
twenty-five extant books of the third, fourth, and fifth 
decads cover a period of fifty years, from the beginning 
of the second Punic to the conclusion of the third Mace- 
donian war. This half century, it is true, was second in 
importance to none in Roman history. But the scale 
f>fth ^wf^rk hnri n ^^niitant tftTid finny tn n xp and as H 
approached more m odem time s, and more abundant docu- 
ments ; and wh^n he reached his own time, nearly a book 
was occu pied with the ev ents oi_each-year. 

Founded as it was, at least for the earlier periods, upon 
the works of preceding annalists, the history of Livy adopted 
from them the arrangement by years marked by successive 
consulates, which was familiar to all his readers. He even 
speaks of his own work as annates^ though its formal title 

v.] Livy, 147 

seems to have been Historiae (or Libri Historiarum) ah 
Urbe Condita. There is no reason to suppose that he 
intended to conclude it at any fixed point. In a preface 
to one of the later volumes, he observed with justifiable 
pride that he had already satisfied the desire of fame, and 
only went on writing because the ta sk of composition had- 
^become a fixed habit, which he could not discontinue with- 
out uneasiness. His fame even in his lifetime was un- 
bounded. He seems to have made no enemies. The 
acrid criticism of Asinius PoUio, a purist by profession, on 
certain provincialities of his style, was an insignificant 
exception to the general chorus of praise. In treading 
the delicate ground of the Civil wars his candour towards 
the Republican party led Augustus to tax him half jestingly 
as a Pompeian ; yet Livy lost no favour either with him 
or with his more jealous successor. The younger Pliny 
relates how a citizen of Cadiz was so fired by his fame that 
he travelled the whole way to Rome merely to see him, 
and as soon as he had seen him returned home, as though 
Rome had no other spectacles to offer. 

Roman history had hitherto been divided between the 
annalists and the writers of personal and contemporary 
memoirs. Sallust was almost the only example of the 
definite historical treatment of a single epoch or episode of 
the past. As a rule each annalist set himself the same 
task, of compiling, from the work of his predecessors, and 
such additional information as he found accessible to him, 
a general history of the Roman people from its beginnings, 
carried down as far towards his own day as he found time 
or patience to continue it. Each successive annalist tried 
to improve upon previous writers, either in elegance of style 
or in copiousness of matter, and so far as he succeeded in 
the double task his work replaced those already written. 
It was not considered unfair to transcribe whole passages 
from former annalists, or even to copy their works with 
additions and improvements, and bring them out as new 

148 Latin Literature. [IL 

and original histories. The idea of literary property seems, 
in truth, to be very much a creation of positive law. When 
no copyright existed, and when the circulation of any book 
was confined within very small limits by the cost and labour 
of transcription, the vaguest ideas prevailed, not at Rome 
alone, on what we should now regard as the elementary 
morality of plagiarism. Virgil himself transferred whole 
lines and passages, not merely from earlier, but even from 
contemporary poets ; and m prose writing, one annalist 
cut up and reshaped the work of another with as little 
hesitation as a mediaeval romance-writer. 

In this matter Livy allowed himself full Uberty ; and his 
work absorbed, and in a great measure Jilotted out, jhose of 
his 4U£(lfi££ssors. In his general preface he speaks of the 
two motives which animate new historians, as the hope that 
they will throw further light on events, or the belief that 
their own art will excel that of a ruder age. The former 
he hardly professes to do, at least as regards times anterior 
to his own ; his hope is that by his pen the great story of 
the RepubUc will be told more impressively, more vividly, 
in a manner more stimulating to the reader and more 
worthy of the subject than had hitherto been done. This 
purpose at least he amply and nobly carried out ; nor can 
it be said to be a low ideal of the function of history. 

So far, however, as the office of the historian is to in- 
vestigate facts, to get at the exact truth of what physically 
happened, or to appreciate the varying degrees of proba- 
bility with which that truth can be attained, Livy falls far 
short of any respectable ideal. His romantic temper^and 
the ethical bent of hi s mind alike indisposed him to set 
anj^very great value on facts as such^ His historylSeais 

little trace of any independent mvestigation. Sources for 
history lay round him in immense profusion. The enormous 
collections made by Varro in every field of antiquarian re- 
search were at his hand, but he does not seem to have 
used them, still less to have undertaken any similar labour 

v.] Livy, 149 

on his own account. While he never wilfully distorts the 
truth, h e takes comparati vely litt le pains to d isengage it 
frnm fal^l^f^ and ir^^^^^'^i^g In his account of a battle 
in Greece he finds that Valerius Antias puts the number of 
the enemy killed as inside ten thousand, while Claudius 
Quadrigarius says forty thousand. The discrepancy does 
not ruffle him, nor even seem to him very important ; he 
contents himself with an expression of mild surprise that 
Valerius for once allows himself to be outstripped in exag- 
gerating numbers. Yet where Valerius is his only authority 
or is not contradicted by others, he accepts his statements, 
figures and all, without uneasiness. This instance is typical 
of his method as a critical — or rather an uncritical — historian. 
When his authorities do not disagree, he accep ts what they 
say wi thouj ^jjanrh gufiStLon. When they do disagree, he 
has several courses open to him, and takes one or another 
according to his fancy at the moment. Sometimes he 
cou nts heads and J bllows the majority of his authors; 
sometimes he adopts the account of the earliest ; often he 
tries to combine or mediate between discordant stories; 
when this is not easy, he chooses the account which is 
most superficially probable or most dramatically impressive. 
He even bases a choice on the ground that the story he 
adopts shows Roman statesmanship or virtue in a more 
favourable light, though he finds some of the inventions of 
Roman vanity too much for him to swallow. Throughout 
he tends to let his own preferences decide whether or not 
a story is true. In rebus tarn antiquis si quae similia vert 
sini pro veris accipiantur is the easy canon which he lays 
down for early and uncertain events. Even when original 
documents of great value were extant, he refrains fi:om 
citing them if they do not satisfy his taste. During the 
second Punic war a hymn to Juno had been written by 
Livius Andronicus for a propitiatory festival. It was one 
of the most celebrated documents of early Latin ; but he 
refiises to insert it, qu the ground that to the taste of his 


150 Latin Literature. pi. 

own day it seemed rude and harsh. Yet as a historian, 
and not a collector of materials for history, he may plead 
the privilege of the artist. The modern compromise by 
which documents are cited in notes without being inserted 
in the text of histories had not then been invented ; and 
notes, even when as in the case of Gibbon's they have a 
substantive value as literature, are an adjunct to the history 
itself, rather than any essential part of it. A more serious 
charge is, that when h e^had trustworthv authorities to follow, 
he di d not appreciate their value . In his account of the 
Macedonian wars, he often follows Polybius all but word 
for word, but without apparently realising the Greek 
historian's admirable accuracy and judgment Such ap- 
preciation only comes of knowledge ; and Livy ladled the 
vast learning and the keen jcritical insight of Gibbon, to 
whom in many respects he has a strong afiinity. His 
imperfect knowledge of the military art and of Roman law 
often confuses his narrative of campaigns and constitutional 
struggles, and gives too much reason to the charge of 
negligence brought against him by that clever and impudent 
critic, the Emperor Caligula. 

Yet, in spite of all his inaccuracies of detail, and in spite 
of the graver defect of insufficient historical perspective, 
which makes him colour the whole political development 
of the Roman state with the ideas of his own time, the 
history of Rome as narrated by Livy is essentially tme 
and vit;al» because based on a large insight into the perma- 
nent qualities of human nature. The spirit in which he 
wrilts history is well illustrated by the speeches. These, 
in a waY« set the t«»ie of die whole work. He does not 
al^^l in Ihem to lef^roduce tthe substance of words actual^ 
:$|)iOib»U <>r er^m to imitate die lone of die time in iriiidi 
the ^p«tch is laid. He uses them as a vivid andjdnunatic 
med^ of poitrapn^ character and motsve. The mediod, 
in itts bfiUiuice and its tntth to pexmaneat fids^is She 
Ibdl of Slytke^peaie^s C^m/^ivtais. Sodi truth, acu n d in g to 

v.] Livy, 151 

the celebrated aphorism in Aristotle's Poetics, is the truth of 
poetry rather than of history : and the history of Livy, in 
this, as in his opulent and coloured diction, has some affinity 
to poetry. Yet, when such insight into motive and such 
vivid creative imagination are based on really large knowl- \ 
edge and perfect sincerity, a higher historical truth may 
be reached than by the most laborious accumulation of 
documents and sifting of evidence. 

Livy*s humane and romantic temper prevented him from \ 
being a political partisan, even if political partisanship had 
been consistent with the view he took of his own art. 
In common with most educated Romans of his time, he 
idealised the earlier RepubHc, and spoke of his own age 
as fatally degenerate. But this is a tendency common to 
writers of all periods. He frequently pauses to deplore the 
loss of the ancient qualities by which Rome had grown 
great — simplicity, equity, piety, orderliness. In his remark- 
able preface he speaks of himself as turning to historical 
study in order to withdraw his mind from the evils of his / 
own age, and the spectacle of an empire tottering to the 
fall under the weight of its own greatness and the vices 
of its citizens. " Into no State," he continues, " were greed 
and luxury so long in entering ; in these late days avajice 
has grown with wealth, and the frantic pursuit of pleasure 
leads fast towards a collapse of the whole social fabric ; in 
our ever-accelerating downward course we have already 
reached a point where our vices and their remedies are 
alike intolerable." But his idealisation of earlier ages was 
that of the romantic student rather than the reactionary 
politician. He is always on the side of order, moderation, I 
conciliation; there was nothing politically dangerous to 
the imperial government in his mild republicanism. He 
shrinks instinctively from violence wherever he meets it, 
whether on the side of the populace or of the governing 
class; he cannot conceive why people should not be 
reasonable, and live in peace under a moderate and settled \ 


152 Latin Literature, [II. 

government. This was the temper which was welcome at 
court, even in men of Pompeian sympathies. 

So, too, Livy*s attitude towards the established religion 
and towards the beliefs of former times has the same senti- 
mental tinge. The moi^al reform attempted by Augustus 
had gone hand in hand with an elaborate revival and 
amplification of religious ceremony. Outward conformity 
at least was required of all citizens. Expedit esse deos^ et 
ut expedit esse putemus ; " the existence of the gods is a 
matter of public policy, and we must believe it accordingly," 
Ovid had said, in the most daring and cynical of his poems. 
The old associations, the antiquarian charm, that lingered 
round this faded ancestral belief, appealed strongly to the 
romantic patriotism of the historian. His own religion was 
a sort of mild fatalism ; he pauses now and then to draw 
rather commonplace reflections on the blindness of men 
destined to misfortune, or the helplessness of human wisdom 
and foresight against destiny. But at the same time he 
gravely chronicles miracles and portents, not so much from 
any belief in their truth as because they are part of the 
story. The fact that they had ceased to be regarded 
seriously in his own time, and were accordingly in a great 
measure ceasing to happen, he laments as one among many 
declensions from older and purer fashions. 

As a master of style, Livy is supreme among historians. 
He marks the highest point which the enlarged and enriched 
prose of the Augustan age reached just before it began 
to fall into decadence. It is no longer the famous urbanus 
sermo of the later Republic, the pure and somewhat austere 
language of a governing class. The influence of Virgil is 
already traceable in Livy, in actual phrases whose use had 
hitherto been confined to poetry, and also in a certain 
warmth of colouring unknown to earlier prose. To Augus- 
tan purists this relaxation of the language seemed provincial 
and unworthy of the severe tradition of the best Latin ; and 
it was this probably, rather than any definite novelties in 

v.] Livy, 153 

grammar or vocabulary, that made Asinius PoUio accuse 
Livy of " Patavinity." But in the hands of Livy the new 
style, by its increased volume and flexibility, is as admirably 
suited to a work of great length and scope as the older 
had been for the purposes of Caesar or Sallust. It is drawn, 
so to speak, with a larger pattern ; and the added jiotuiess 
of tone enables him to advance without flagging through 
the long and intricate narrative where a simpler diction 
must necessarily have growa monotonous, as one more 
florid would be cloying^^^n the earlier books we seem to 
find the manner stilK^ little uncertain and tentative, arid 
a little trammelled by the traditional manner of the older 
annalists ; as he proceeds in his work he falls into his 
stride, and advances with a movement as certain as that 
of Gibbon, and claimed by Roman critics as comparable 
in ease and grace to that of Herodotus. The periodic 
structure of Latin prose which had been developed by 
Cicero is carried by him to an even greater complexity, 
and used with a greater daring and freedom; a sort of 
fine carelessness in detail enhancing the large and con- 
tinuous excellence of his broad effect. Even where he 
copies Polybius most closely he invariably puts life and 
grace into his cumbrous Greek. For the facts of the war 
with Hannibal we can rely more safely on the latter ; but 
it is in the picture of Tiry tli^ yl, wr n rr it l i irr l irrnir iin 
His imagination never fails to kindle at great actions ; it 
is he, more than any other author, who has impressed 
the great soldiers and statesmen of the Republic on the 
imagination of the world. 

Quin Decios Drusosque procul, saevutnque securi 
Aspice Torquatum^ et referentem signa Camillum . . . 
Quis te, magne Cato, taciturn^ aut /<?, Cosse, relinquatf 
Quis Gracchi genus y aut geminoSy duo fulmina belU^ 
Scipiadas, cladem Libyacy parvoque potentem 
Fabriciunty vel te sulcOy Serranc, serenUm /— • 


154 Latin Literature. [II. 

l|is whole work is a splendid expansion of that vision of 
Rome which passes before the eyes of Aeneas in the 
Fortunate Fields of the underworld. In the description of 

I great events, no less than of great characters and actions, 
he rises and kindles with his subject. His eye for dramatic 
effect is extraordinary. The picture of the siege and 
storming of Saguntum, with which he opens the stately 
narrative of the war between Rome and Hannibal, is an 
instance of his instinctive skill ; together with the masterly 
sketch of the character of Hannibal and the description 
of the scene in the Carthaginian senate-house at the recep- 
tion of the Roman ambassadors, it forms a complete prelude 
to the whole drama of the war. His great battle-pieces, 
too, in spite of his imperfect mastery of military science, 
are admirable as works of arf^^ Among others may be . 
specially instanced, as masterpieces of execution, the account — p " 
of the victory over Antiochus at Magnesia in the thirty- 
seventh book, and, still more, that in the forty-fourth of 
the fiercely contested battle of Pydna, the desperate heroism 
of the Pelignian cohort, and the final and terrible destruction 
of the Macedonian phalanx. 

Yet, with all his admiration for great men and deeds, 

^ what most of all kindles Livy*s imagination and sustains 
his enthusiasm is a subject larger, and to him hardly more 
abstract, the Roman Commonwealth itself, almost per- 
sonified as a continuous living force. This is almost the 
only matter in which patriotism leads him to marked 
partiality. The epithet " Roman " signifies to him all that 
is high and noble. That Rome can do no wrong is a sort 
of article of faith with him, and he has always a tendency 
to do less than justice to her enemies. The two qualities ^^ 

of eloquence and candour are justly ascribed to him by 
Tacitus, but from the latter some deduction must be made 
when he is dealing with foreign relations and external 
diplomacy. Without any intention to falsify history, he is 
sometimes completely carried away by his romantic enthu- 
siasm for Roman statesmanship. 

v.] Livy. 155 

This canonisation of Rome is Livy's largest and most 
abiding achievement. The elder Seneca, one of his ablest 
literary contemporaries, observes, in a fine passage, that 
when historians reach in their narrative the death of some 
great man, they give a summing-up of his whole life as 
though it were a^ eulogy pronounced over his grave. Livy, 
he adds, the most candid of all historians in his apprecia- 
tion of genius, does this with unusual grace and sympathy| 
The remark may bear a wider scope ; for the whole of his 
work is animated by a similar spirit towards the idealised 
Commonwealth, to the story of whose life he devoted his 
splendid literary gifts. As the title of Gesta Populi Rotnani 
was given to the Aeneid on its appearance, so the Historiae 
ab Urbe Condita might be called, with no less truth, a 
funeral eulogy — consummatio totius viiae et quasi funebris 
laudaiio — delivered, by the most loving and most eloquent 
of her children, over the grave of the great Republic. 



The impulse given to Latin literature by the great poets 
and prose writers of the first century before Christ ebbed 
slowly away. The end of the so-called Golden Age may 
be conveniently fixed in the year which saw the death of 
Livy and Ovid; but the smaller literature of the period 
suffered no violent breach of continuity, and one can hardly 
name any definite date at which the Silver Age begins. 
Until the appearance of a new school of writers in the reign 
of Nero, the history of Roman literature is a continuation 
of the Augustan tradition. But it is continued by feeble 
hands, and dwindles away more and more under several 
unfavourable influences. Among these influences may be 
specially noted the growing despotism of the Empire, which 
had already become grave in the later years of Augustus, 
and under his successors reached a point which made free 
writing, like free speech, impossible ; the perpetually in- 
creasing importance of the schools of declamation, which 
forced a fashion of overstrained and unnatural rhetoric on 
both prose and verse ; and the paralysing effect of the great 
Augustan waiters themselves, which led poetry at all events 
to lose itself in imitations of imitations within an arbitrary 
and rigid limit of subjects and methods. 

In mere amount of production, however, literature re- 
mained active during the first half-century of the Christian era. 
That far the greater part of it has perished is probably a 


VI.] Minor Augustan Poetry. 157 

matter for congratulation rather than regret ; even of what 
survives there is a good deal that we could well do without, 
and such of it as is valuable is so rather from incidental 
than essential reasons. Scribimus indocti doctique poemata 
passim, Horace had written in half-humorous bitterness; 
the crowd of names that flit like autumn leaves through the 
pages of Ovid represent probably but a small part of the 
immense production. Among the works of Ovid himself 
were included at various times poems by other contemporary 
hands — some, like the Consolatio ad Liviam, and the elegy 
on the Nut-tree y without any author's name ; others of known 
authorship, like the continuation by Sabinus of Ovid's 
Heroides, in the form of replies addressed to them by their 
lovers. Heroic poetry, too, both on mythological and 
historical subjects, continued to be largely written ; but few 
of the writers are more than names. Cornelius Severus, 
author of an epic on the civil wars, gave in his earlier work 
promise of great excellence, which was but poorly fulfilled. 
The fine and stately passage on the death of Cicero, quoted 
by Seneca, fully reaches the higher level of post-Virgilian 
style. Two other poets of considerable note at the time, 
but soon forgotten after their death, were Albinovanus Pedo 
and Rabirius. The former, besides a Theseid, wrote a 
narrative and descriptive poem in the epic manner, on the 
northern campaigns of Germanicus ; the latter was the 
author of an epic on the conflict with Antonius, which was 
kept alive for a short time by court favour; the stupid 
and amiable aide-de-camp of Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus, 
no doubt repeating what he heard in official circles, speaks 
of him and Virgil as the two most eminent poets of the age ! 
Tiberius himself, though he chiefly wrote in Greek, occa- 
sionally turned off" a copy of Latin verses ; and his nephew 
Germanicus, a man of much learning and culture, composed 
a Latin version of the famous Phaenomena of Aratus, which 
shows uncommon skill and talent. Another, and a more 
important work of the same type, but with more original 

158 Latin Literature, (TL 

power^ and less a mere adaptation of Greek originalsy is 
the Astronomica, ascribed on doubtful manuscnpt evidence 
to an otherwise unknown Gaius or Marcus Manilius. This 
poem, from the allusions in it to the destruction of the three 
legions under Varus, and the retirement of Tiberius in 
Rhodes, must have been begun in the later years of 
Augustus, though probably not completed till after his 
death. As extant it consists of five books, the last being 
incomplete ; the full plan seems to have included a sixth, 
and would have extended the work to about five thousand 
lines, or two-thirds of the length of the De Rerum Natura. 
Next to the poem of Lucretius it is, therefore, much the 
largest in bulk of extant Latin didactic poems. The 
oblivion into which it has fallen is, perhaps, a little hard if 
one considers how much Latin poetry of no greater merit 
continues to have a certain reputation, and even now and 
then to be read. The author is not a great poet ; but he 
is a writer of real power both in thought and style. The 
versification of his Astronomica shows a high mastery of 
technique. The matter is often prosaically handled, and 
often seeks relief from prosaic handling in ill-judged flights 
of rhetoric ; but throughout we feel a strong and original 
mind, with a large power over lucid and forcible expression. 
In the prologue to the third book he rejects for himself the 
common material for hexameter poems, subjects from the 
Greek heroic cycle, or from Roman history. His total 
want of narrative gift, as shown by the languor and flat- 
ness of the elaborate episode in which he attempts to 
tell the story of Perseus and Andromeda, would have been 
sufficient reason for this decision; but he justifies it, in 
lines of much grace and feeling, as due Jp his desire to take 
a line of his own, and make a fresh if a small conquest for 
Latin poetry. 

Ommis ad acctssus HeUcofds semita trita est, 
Ei iam eonfusi manani defontibus amnes 

VI.] Manilius, 1 59 

Nee capiunt haustum, turbamque ad nota ruentem : 
Integra quaeramus rorantes prata per herbas 
Undamque occultis meditantem murmur in antris. 

In a passage of nobler and more sincere feeling, he breaks 
off his catalogue of the signs of the Zodiac to vindicate 
the arduous study of abstract science — 

" Mulium " inquis " tenuemque tubes meferre laborem 

Cernere cumfacili lucem ratione viderer,^^ 

Quod quaeris, Deus est Coneris scandere caelum 

Fataque fatali genitus cognoscere lege 

Et transire tuum pectus, mundoque potiri : 

Pro pretio labor est, nee sunt immunia tanta. 

Wherever one found this language used, in prose or verse, 
it would be memorable. The thought is not a mere text 
of the schools ; it is strongly and finely conceived, and put 
in a form that anticipates the ardent and lofty manner of 
Lucan, without his perpetual overstrain of expression. 
Other passages, showing the same mental force, occur in 
the Astronomica : one might instance the fine passage on the 
power of the human eye to take in, within its tiny compass, 
the whole immensity of the heavens ; or another, suggested 
by the mention of the constellation Argo, on the influence 
of sea-power on history, where the inevitable and well- 
worn instances of Salamis and Actium receive a fresh 
life from the citation of the destruction of the Athenian 
fleet in the bay of Syracuse, and the great naval battles of 
the first Punic war. Or again, the lines with which he opens 
the fourth book, weakened as their effect is by what follows 
them, a tedious enumeration of events showing the power 
of destiny over human fortunes, are worthy of a great 
poet : — 

Quid tarn sollicitis vitam consumimus annis, 
Torquemurque metu caecdque cupidine rerum ? 

i6o Latin Literature. PL 

Aetemisque senes curis, dum qua^rimus aevum 
Perdimus, et nuHo votorumfiru beati 
Victuros agimus semper, nee vivimus unquatn t 

These passages have been cited from the Astronomica 
because, to all but a few professional students of Latin, the 
poem is practically unknown. The only other poet who 
survives from the reign of Tiberius is in a very different 
position, being so well known and so slight in literary 
quality as to make any quotations superfluous. Phaedrus, 
a Thracian freedman belonging to the household of 
Augustus, published at this time the well-known collection 
of Fables which, like the lyrics of the pseudo-Anacreon, 
have obtained from their use as a school-book a circulation 
much out of proportion to their merit. Their chief interest 
is as the last survival of the urbanus sermo in Latin poetry. 
They are written in iambic senarii, in the fluent and studi- 
ously simple Latin of an earlier period, not without occa- 
sional vulgarisms, but with a total absence of the turgid 
rhetoric which was coming into fashion. The Fables are 
the last utterance made by the speech of Terence: it is 
singular that this intimately Roman style should have 
begun and ended with two authors of servile birth and 
foreign blood. But the patronage of literature was now 
passing out of the hands of statesmen. Terence had moved 
in the circle of the younger Scipio ; one book of the Fables 
of Phaedrus is dedicated to Eutychus, the famous chariot- 
driver of the Greens in the reign of Caligula. It was not 
long before Phaedrus was in use as a school-book ; but his 
volume was apparently regarded as hardly coming within 
the province of serious literature. It is ignored by Seneca 
and not mentioned by Quintilian. But we must remind 
ourselves that the most celebrated works, whether in prose 
or verse, do not of necessity have the widest circulation or 
the largest influence. Among the poems produced in the 
first ten years of this century the Original Poems of Jane 

VI.] Phaedrus, i6i 

and Ann Taylor are hardly if at all mentioned in handbooks 
of English literature; but to thousands of readers they 
were more familiar than the contemporary poems of 
Wordsworth or Coleridge or even of Scott. In their 
terse and pure' English, the language which is trans- 
mitted from one generation to another through the con- 
tinuous tradition of the nursery, they may remind us of the 
Fables of Phaedrus. 

The collection consists of nearly a hundred pieces. Of 
these three-fourths are fables proper; being not so much 
translations from the Greek of Aesop as versions of the 
traditional stories, written and unwritten, which were the 
common inheritance of the Aryan peoples. Mixed up with 
these are a number of stories which are not strictly fables ; 
five of them are about Aesop himself, and there are also 
stories told of Simonides, Socrates, and Menander. Two 
are from the history of his own time, one relating a grim 
jest of the Emperor Tiberius, and the other a domestic 
tragedy which had been for a while the talk of the town in 
the previous reign. There are also, besides the prologues 
and epilogues of the several books, a few pieces in which 
Phaedrus speaks in his own person,* defending himself 
against detractors with an acrid tone which recalls the 
Terentian prologues. The collection formed the basis for 
others ; but the body of fables current in the Middle Ages 
seems to descend more directly from translations of a larger 
Greek collection, made by Babrius in choliambic verse, 
about the same time as that of Phaedrus, but probably 
independently of his. 

Though Livy is the single great historian of the 
Augustan age, there was throughout this period a pro- 
fuse production of memoirs and commentaries, as well as 

* It is one of these which opens with the two sonorous lines t- 

Aesopi statuam ingentem posuere Attici 
Servumque aetema colhcarunt in basi^ 

which so powerfully affected the imagination of De Quincey. 

1 62 Latin Literature, pt 

of regular histories. Augustus wrote thirteen books of 
memoirs of his own life down to the pacification of the 
Empire at the close of the Cantabrian war. These are 
lost ; but the Index Rerum a se Gestarum, a. brief epitome 
of his career, which he composed as a sort of epitaph 
on himself, is extant. This document was engraved on 
plates of bronze affixed to the imperial mausoleum by 
the Tiber, and copies of it were inscribed on the various 
temples dedicated to him in many provincial cities after 
his death. It is one of these copies, engraved on the 
vestibule wall of the temple of Augustus and Rome at 
Ancyra in Galatia, which still exists with inconsiderable 
gaps. His two great ministers, Maecenas and Agrippa, 
also composed memoirs. The most important work of 
the latter hardly, however, falls within the province of 
literature ; it was a commentary on the great geographical 
survey of the Empire carried out under his supervision. 

Gains Asinjus PolHo, already mentioned as a critic and 
tragedian, was also the author of the most important 
historical work of the Augustan age after Livy's. His 
History of the Civil JVars, in seventeen books, from the 
formation of the first triumvirate in 60 B.C. to the battle 
of Philippi, was undoubtedly a work of great ability and 
value. Though Pollio was a practised rhetorician, his 
narrative style was simple and austere. The fine ode 
addressed to him by Horace during the composition of this 
history seems to hint that in Horace's opinion — or perhaps, 
rather, in that of Horace's masters — Pollio would find a 
truer field for his great literary ability in tragedy. But 
apart from its artistic quality, the work of Pollio was of 
the utmost value as giving the view held of the Civil wars 
by a trained administrator of the highest rank. It was 
one of the main sources used by Appian and Plutarch, 
and its almost total loss is matter of deep regret. 

An author of less eminence, and belonging rather to 
the class of encyclopedists than of historians, is Pompeius 


VI.] Trogtis and Paterculus, i63 

Trogus, the descendant of a family of Narbonese Gaul, 
which had for two generations enjoyed the Roman citizen- 
ship. Besides works on zoology and botarfy, translated 
or adapted from the Greek of Aristotle and Theophrastus, 
Trogus wrote an important History of the World, exclusive 
of the Roman Empire, which served as, and may have 
been designed to be, a complement to that of Livy. The 
original work, which extended to forty-four books, is not 
extant ; but an abridgment, which was executed in the 
age of the Antonines by one Marcus Junianus Justinus, 
and has fortunately escaped the fate which overtook the 
abridgment of Livy made about the same time, preserves the 
main outlines and much of the actual form of the original. 
Justin, whose individual talent was but small, had the good 
sense to leave the diction of his original as far as possible 
unaltered. The pure and vivacious style, and the evident 
care and research which Trogus himself, or the Greek 
historians whom he follows, had bestowed on the material, 
make the work one of very considerable value. Its title, 
Historiae Philippicae, is borrowed from that of a history 
conceived on a somewhat similar plan by Theopompus, 
the pupil of Isocrates, in or after the reign of Alexander 
the Great ;^ and it followed Theopompus in making the 
Macedonian Empire the core round which the history of 
the various 'H^untries included in or bordering upon it was 
arranged.' ' •'•'^* 

Gaius Velleius Paterculus, a Roman officer, who after 
passing with credit through high military appointments, 
entered the g#neral administrative service of the Empire, 
and rose to the praetorship, wrote, in the reign of Tiberius, 
an abridgment of Roman history in two books, which 
hardly rises beyond the mark of the military man who 
dabbles in letters. The pretentiousness of his style is 
partly due to the declining taste of the period, partly to 
an idea of his own that he could write in the manner 
of Sallust. It alternates between a sort of laboured 

164 Latin Literature, pi. 

sprightliness and a careless conversational manner full of 
endless parentheses. Yet Velleius had two real merits; 
the eye of the trained soldier for character, and an 
unaffected, if not a very intelligent, interest in literature. 
Where he approaches his own times, his servile attitude 
towards all the members of the imperial family, and 
towards Sejanus, who was still first minister to Tiberius 
when the book was published, makes him almost valueless 
as a historian; but in the earlier periods his observations 
are often just and pointed, and he seems to have been 
almost the first historian who included as an essential 
part of his work some account of the more eminent 
writers of his country. A still lower level of aim and 
attainment is shown in another work of the same date 
as that of Velleius, the nine books of historical anecdotes. 
Facta et Dicta Memorabilia^ by Valerius Maximus, whose 
turgid and involved style is not redeemed by any originality 
of thought or treatment. 

The study of archaeology, both on its linguistic and 
material sides, was carried on in the Augustan age with 
great vigour, though no single name is comparable to that 
of Varro for extent and variety of research. One of the 
most eminent and copious writers on these subjects was 
Gains Julius Hyginus, a Spam'sh freed man of Augustus, 
who made him principal keeper of tbe Palatine library. 
He was a pupil of the Greek grammarian, Cornelius 
Alexander (called Polyhistor, from his immense learning), 
and an intimate acquaintance of Ovid. Of his voluminous 
works on geography, history, astrology, agriculture, and 
poetry, all are lost but two treatises on mythology, which 
in their present form are of a much later date, and are 
at best only abridged and corrupted versions, if (as many 
modem critics are inclined to think) they are not wholly 
the work of some author of the second or third century. 
Hyginus was also one of the earliest commentators on 
Virgil; he possessed among his treasures a manuscript 

VI.] Celsus, 165 

of the GeorgicSy which came from VirgiPs own house^ 
though it was not actually written by his hand ; and many 
of his annotations and criticisms on the Aeneid are pre- 
served by Aulus Gellius and later commentators. A little 
later, in the reigns of Tiberius and Claudius, Virgilian 
criticism was carried on by Quintus Remmius Palaemon 
of Vicenza, the most fashionable teacher in the capital, 
and the author of a famous Latin grammar on which all 
subsequent ones were more or less based. Perhaps the 
most distinguished of Augustan grammarians was another 
celebrated teacher, Marcus Verrius Flaccus, who was 
chosen by Augustus as tutor for his two grandsons, and 
thenceforward held his school "in the imperial residence 
on the Palatine. His lexicon, entitled De Verborum 
Significatu, was ^ rich treasury of antiqttarian research : 
such parts of it as survive in the abridgments made from 
it in the second and eighth centuries, by Sextus Pompeius 
Festus and Paulus Diaconus,^re still amoiig our^ most- 
valuable sources for the study of early Latin language 
and institutions. The more practical side of science in 
the same period was ably represented by Aulus Cornelius 
Celsus, the compiler of an encyclopedia which included 
comprehensive treatises not only on oratory, jurisprudence, 
and philosophy, but on the arts of war, agriculture, and 
medicine. The eight books dealing with this last subject 
are the only part of the work that has been preserved. 
This treatise, which is written in a pure, simple, and 
elegant Latin, became a standard work. It was one of 
the earliest books printed in the fifteenth century, and 
remained a text-book for medical students till within living 
memory. Medical science had then reached, in the hands 
of its leading professors, a greater perfection than it 
regained till the eighteenth century. Celsus, though not, 
so far as is known, the author of any important discovery 
or improvement, had fulfy mastered* a branch of knowl- 
edge which even then was highly complicated, and takes 

i66 Latin Literature, pi. 

rank by his extensive and accurate knowledge, as well 
as by his rare literary skill, with the highest names in his 
profession. That with his eminent medical acquirement 
he should have been able to write at length on so many 
other subjects as well, has long been a subject of perplexity. 
The cold censure of Quintilian, who refers to him slightly 
as " a man of moderate abihty," may be principally aimed 
at the treatise on rhetoric, which formed a section of his 
encyclopedia. Columella, writing in the next age, speaks 
of him as one of the two leading authorities on agri- 
culture; and he is also quoted as an authority of some 
value on military tactics. Yet we cannot suppose that 
the encyclopedist, however great his excellence in one 
or even more subjects, would not lay himself open in 
others to the censure of the specialist. It seems most 
reasonable to suppose that Celsus was one of a class which 
is not, after all, very uncommon — doctors of eminent knowU 
edge and skill in their own art, who at the same time 
are men of wide literary culture and far-ranging practical 

In striking contrast to Celsus as regards width of knowl- 
edge and literary skill, though no less famous in the 
history of his own art, is his contemporary, the celebrated 
architect Vitruvius Pollio. The ten books De Architectural 
dedicated to Augustus about the year 14 B.C., are the 
single important work on classical architecture which has 
come down from the ancient world, and, as such, have 
been the object of continuous professional study from 
the Renaissance down .to the present day. But their 
reputation is not due to any Uterary merit. Vitruvius, 
however able as an architect, was a man of little general 
knowledge, and far from handy with his pen. His style 
varies between immoderate diffuseness and obscure brevity ; 
sometimes he is barely intelligible, and he never writes 
with grace. Where in his introductory chapters or else- 
where he ventures beyond his strict province, his writing 

VI.] The Elder Seneca. 167 

is that of a half-educated man who has lost simplicity 
without acquiring skill. 

Among the innumerable rhetoricians of this age one 
only requires formal notice, Lucius Annaeus Seneca' of 
Cordova, the father of the famous philosopher,*^' and the 
grandfather of the poet Lucan. His long life reached from 
before the outbreak of war betweem Caesar and Pompeius 
till after the death of Tiberius. His only extant work, 
a collection of themes treated in the schools of rhetoric,  
was written in his old age, after the fall of Sejanus, and 
bears witness to the amazing power of memory which 
he tells us himself was, when in its prime, absolutely 
unique. How much of his life was spent at Rome is 
uncertain. As a young man he had heard all the greatest 
orators of the time except Cicero; and up to the end 
of his life he could repeat word for word and without 
effort whole passages, if not whole speeches, to which 
he had listened many years before. His ten books of 
Controversiae are only extant in a mutilated form, which 
comprises thirty-five out of seventy-four themes; to these 
is prefixed a single book of Suasoriae^ which is also 
imperfect. The work is a mine of information for the 
ihistory of rhetoric under Augustus and Tiberius, and 
incidentally includes many interesting quotations, anec- 
dotes, and criticisms. But we feel in reading it that we 
"have passed definitely away from the Golden Age. Yet 
once more " they have forgotten to speak the Latin tongue 
at Rome." The Latinity of the later Empire is as distinct 
from that of the Augustan age as this last is from the 
Latinity of the Republic. Seneca, it is true, was not an 
Italian by birth ; but it is just this influx of the provinces 
into literature, which went on under the early Empire 
with continually accelerating force, that determined what 
type the new Latinity should take. Gaul, Spain, and 
Africa are henceforth side by side with Italy, and Italy 
herself sinks towards the level of a province. Within thirty 

l68 Latin Literature. pi- 

yeais of the death of the elder Seneca '' the iaxA secret 
of empire, that Emperors could be made elsewhere than 
at Rome," was discovered by the Spanish and German 
legions; of hardly less moment was the other discovery, 
that Latin could be written in another than the Roman 
manner. In literature no less than in politics the discovery 
meant the final breaking up of the old world, and the 
slow birth of a new one through alternate torpors and 
agonies. It might already have been said of Rome, in 
the words of a poet of four hundred years later, that she 
had made a city of what had been a world. But in this 
absorption of the world into a single citizenship, the city 
itself was ceasing to be a world of its own; and with 
the self-centred urbs passed away the urbanus sermOy that 
austere and noble language which was the finest flower 
of her civilisation. 




The later years of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, while they 
brought about the complete transformation of the govern- 
ment into- an absolute monarchy, also laid the foundations 
for that reign of the philosophers which had been dreamed 
of by Plato, and which had never been so nearly realised 
as it was in Rome during the second century after Christ. 
The Stoical philosophy, passing beyond the limits of the 
schools to become at once a religious creed and a practical 
code of morals for everyday use, penetrated deeply into 
the life of Rome. At first associated with the aristocratic 
opposition to the imperial government, it passed through a 
period of persecution which only strengthened and con- 
soUdated its growth. The final struggle took place under 
Domitian, whose edict of the year 94, expelling all philoso- 
phers from Rome, was followed two years afterwards by his 
assassination and the establishment, for upwards of eighty 
years, of a government deeply imbued with the principles 
of Stoicism. 

Of the men who set this revolution in motion by their 
writings, the earliest and the most distinguished was Lucius 
Annaeus Seneca, the son of the rhetorician. Though only 
of the second rank as a classic, he is a figure of very great : 
importance in the history of human thought from the work 
he did in the exposition of x the new creed. As a practical 


1/2 Latin Literature. pil. 

exponent of morals, he stands, with Plutarch, at the head 
of all Greek and Roman writers. 

The life of Seneca was one of singularly dramatic con- 
trasts and vicissitudes. He was bom in the year 4 b.c., at 
Cordova, where, at a somewhat advanced age, his father 
had married Helvia, a lady of high birth, and brought up 
in the strictest family traditions. Through the influence 
of his mother's family (her sister had married Vitrasius 
PoUio, who for sixteen years was viceroy of Egypt), the 
way was easy to him for advancement in the public service. 
But delicate health, which continued throughout his life, 
kept him as a young man from taking more than a nommal 
share in administrative work. He passed into the senate 
through the quaestorship, and became a well-known figure 
at court during the reign of Caligula. On the accession of 
Claudius, he was banished to Corsica at the instance of the 
Empress Messalina, on the charge of being the favoured 
lover of Julia Livilla, Caligula's youngest sister. Whether 
the scandal which connected his name with hers, or with 
that of her sister Agrippina, had any other foundation than 
the prurient gossip which raged round all the members of 
the imperial family may well be doubted; but when 
Agrippina married Claudius, after the downfall and execu- 
tion of Messalina seven years later, she recalled him from 
i^'\fi exile, obtained his nomination to the quaestorship, /and 
appointed him tutor to her son Domitius Nero, then a boy 
of ten. The influence gained by Seneca, an accomplished 
courtier and a clever man of the world, as well as a brilliant 
scholar, over his young pupil was for a long time almost 
unbounded ; and when Nero became Emperor at the age of 
seventeen, Seneca, in conjunction with his close friend, 
Afranius Burrus, commander of the imperial guards, became* 
practically the administrator of the Empire. His philosophy 
was not one which rejected wealth or power ; a fortune of 
three million pounds may have been amassed without 
absolute dishonesty, or even forced upon him, as he pleads 

I.l Seneca, 173 

himself^ by the lavish generosity of his pupil ; but there can 
be no doubt that in indulging the weaknesses and passions 
of Nero, Seneca went far beyond the limits, not only of 
honour, but of ordinary prudence. The mild and en- 
lightened administration of the earlier years of the new 
reign, the famous quinquennium Neronis, which was looked 
back to afterwards as a sort of brief golden age, .may indeed 
be ascribed largely to Seneca's influence; but this influence 
was based on an excessive indulgence of Nero's caprices, 
which soon worked out its own punishment. His consent 
to the murder of Agrippina was the death-blow to his 
influence for good, or to any self-respect that he may till 
then have retained ; the death of Burrus left him without 
support; and, by retiring into private life and formally 
offering to make over his whole fortune to the Emperor, he 
did not long delay his fate. In the year 65, on the pretext 
of complicity in the conspiracy of Piso, he was commanded 
to commit suicide, and obeyed with that strange mixture 
of helplessness and heroism with which the orders of the 
master of the world were then accepted as a sort of in- 
evitable law of nature. 

The philosophical writings of Seneca were extremely 
voluminous ; and though a large number of them are lost, 
he is still one of the bulkiest of ancient authors. They fall 
into, three main groups : formal treatises on ethics ; moral 
letters {epistolae morales), dealing in a less continuous way 
with the same general range of subjects ; and writings on 
natural philosophy, from the point of view of 'the Stoical 
system. The whole of these are, however, animated by the 
same spirit ; to the Stoical philosophy, physics wett merely 
a branch of ethics, and a study to be pursued for the sake 
of moral edification, not of reaching truth by accmrate 
observation or research. The discussions of natural phe- 
nomena are mere texts for religious meditations ; and 
though the eight books of Naturales Quaestiones were used 
as a text-book of physical science in the Middle Ages, they 

tj/^ Laim. Literature, PIL. 

;it9( miatUy ^Fithnnt any viennnc */aiue. So, tna, the tspoit^ 
)w»ki» (\i mncil lensexs, nonxinally addrngpfi ta rnriiins^ 
dSK ftntMtxcr^r of f^ciiy, merdv repossexic a afight ^ansakm. 

CUm^iuy, On C/injuilalian^ On Pacue af JGnd^ On tkeSkart- 
^f^ nf lUfe^ On Gimnf( anti iUcming Ftwaurs, wiuck are 
rhi^ lYUiiiv jiiibficafire of^exiecsL^i wnttngs. 

An ^ mor:d writer^ Sgneca stands deaerrndbf hfgh. 
Thr>ftf|fH ittl5w,tM wirii die rhetorical vices of die sq^^ his 
ffft^tfiww afft fiill of Jitriking^ and often gorgeous doqaencey 
And Uv th«r combination of high thought with deep feefin^ 
hittr^t fa«tly, if at all, l^een siupaaaed. The Artorical 
m(um<tf #a<i <io eiifumtially part of Seneca's nature, that the 
irarm (t/>U'>uriAg and perpetual mannerism, of his language 
d^xtK not imply any in^nncerity or want of rarnrrtnes&. 
Ia iipit^ of the laboured styie, there is no fiulnre eidier in 
hW'UUtf or in fbrce, and even where the rhetoric is most 
pfofl<»e, it neUlom uk without a solid basis of thought, *^ It 
W(aM not t^^e eajiy/' says a modem scholar, who was 
himMrlf AV€t%fi to an ornament of diction, and deeply 
petM^rat«:d with the spirit of Stoicism, ^to name any 
u^idefn writer who has treated on morality and has said so 
fwif:h that is prar.tiatlly good and true, or has treated die 
matter in so attractive a way/' 

(n the moral writings we have the picture of Seneca die 
phitosopher ; Seneca the courtier is less attractively presented 
in the curioas pamphlet called the Afocolocyniosis^ ai sStj 
and ftpfteftU attack on the memory of the Emperor Claudios, 
written to make the laughter of an afternoon at the court 
of Nero, l^he gross bad taste of this satire is hardly 
relieved by any great wit in the treatment, and the repata- 
tion of the author would stand higher if it had not survived 
the occasion for which it was written. 

Among Seneca's extant works are also included nine 
tragedies, written in imitation of the Greek, upon the wrA- 
worn tubjecUi of the epic cycle. At what period of his life 

I.] Seneca. 175 

they were written cannot be ascertained. As a rule, only 
young authors had courage enough to attempt the dis- 
credited task of flogging this dead horse; but it is not 
improbable that these dramas were written by Seneca in 
mature life, in deference to his imperial pupiPs craze for 
the stage. All the rhetorical vices of his prose are here 
exaggerated. The tragedies are totally without dramatic 
life, consisting merely of a series of declamatory speeches, 
in correct but monotonous versification, interspersed with 
choruses, which only differ from the speeches by being 
written in lyric metres instead of the iambic. To say that 
the tragedies are without merit would be an overstatement,, 
for Seneca, though no poet, remained even in his poetry 
an extremely able man of letters and an accomplished 
rhetorician. His declamation comes in the same tones 
from all his puppets ; but it is often grandiose, and some- 
times really fine. The lines with which the curtain falls in 
his Medea remind one, by their startling audacity, of Victor 
Hugo in his most Titanic vein. As the only extant Latin 
tragedies, these pieces had a great effect upon the early 
drama of the sixteenth century in England and elsewhere. 
In the well-known verses prefixed to the first folio Shake- 
speare, Jonson calls on " him of Cordova dead," in the same 
breath with Aeschylus and Euripides ; and long after the 
Jacobean period the false tradition remained which, by 
putting these lifeless copies on the same footing as their 
great originals, perplexed and stultified literary criticism, 
much as the criticism of classical art was confused by an 
age which drew no distinction between late Graeco- Roman 
sculpture and the finest work of Praxiteles or Pheidias. 

By far the most brilliant poet of the Neronian age was 
Seneca's nephew, Marcus Annaeus Lucanus. His father, 
Annaeus Mela, the younger brother of the philosopher, is 
known chiefly through his more distinguished son; an 
interesting but puzzling notice in a life of Lucan speaks 
of him as famous at Rome " from his pursuit of the quiet 


176 Latin Literature. [in. 

life." This may imply refusal of some great office when 
his elder brother was practically ruler of the Empire ; what- 
ever stirrings of ambition he suppressed broke out with 
accumulated force in his son. Lucan's short life was one 
of feverish activity. At twenty-one he made his first public 
sensation by the recitation, in the theatre of Pompeius, of 
a paneg3rric on Nero, who had already murdered his own 
mother, but had not yet broken with the poet's uncle. 
Soon afterwards, he was advanced to the quaestorship, and 
a seat in the college of Augurs : but his brilliant poetical 
reputation seems to have excited the jealousy of the artist- 
emperor; a violent quarrel broke out between them, and 
Lucan, already in theory an ardent repubhcan, became one 
of the principal movers in the conspiracy of Piso. The 
plan discussed among the conspirators of assassinating 
Nero while in the act of singing on the stage would, no 
doubt, commend itself specially to the young poet whom 
the Emperor had forbidden to recite in public. When the 
conspiracy was detected, Lucan's fortitude soon gave way ; 
he betrayed one accomplice after another, one of the first 
names he surrendered being that of his mother, Acilia. 
The promise of pardon, under which his confessions were 
obtained, was not kept after they were completed; and 
the execution of Lucan, at the age of twenty-six, while 
it cut short a remarkable poetical career, rid the world of 
a very poor creature. The final effort of bravado with 
which he died, declaiming a passage firom his own epic, was 
small ground for Shelley to name him in the same verse with 
Sydney and Chatterton. 

Yet the Pharsalia, the only large work which Lucan left 
complete, or all but complete, among a number of essajrs 
in different styles of poetry, and the only work of his 
which has been preserved, is a poem which, in spite of its 
immaturity and bad taste, compels admiration by its eleva- 
tion of thought and sustained brilliance of execution. Pore 
rhetoric has, perhaps, never come quite so near being 


I.] Lucan. 177 

poetry ; and if the perpetual overstraining of both thought 
and expression inevitably ends by fatiguing the reader, 
there are at least few instances of a large work throughout 
which so lofty and* grandiose a style is carried with such 
elasticity and force. The Pharsalia is full of quotations, 
and this itself is no small praise. Lines like Nil actum 
credens dum quid superesset agendum^ or Nee sibi, sed toH 
genitutn se eredere mundoy or lupiter est quodcunque vides 
quocunque tnaverisy or the sad and noble 

Vieturosque dei celanty ut vivere durent, 
Felix esse mori- 


are as well known and have sunk as deep as the great lines 
of Virgil himself; and not only in single lines, but in longer 
passages of lofty thought or sustained imagination, as in 
his description of the dream of Pompeius, at the beginning 
of the seventh book ; or the passage on the extension of the 
Roman Empire, later in the same book ; or the magnificent 
speech of Cato when he refuses to seek counsel of the 
oracle of Ammon, Lucan sometimes touches a point 
where he challenges comparison with his master. In these 
passages, without anydeHcacy of modulation, with a limited 
range of rhythm, his verse has a metallic clangour that stirs 
the blood like a trumpet-note. But his range of ideas is 
as limited as that of his rhythms ; and the thought is not 
sustained by any basis of character. His fierce republi- 
canism sits side by side with flattery of the reigning Emperor 
more gross and servile than had till then been known at 
Rome. He makes no attempt to realise his persons or to 
grasp the significance of events. Caesar, Pompeius, Cato 
himself — the hero of the epic — are not human beings, but 
mere lay-figures round which he drapes his gorgeous rhetoric. 
The Civil wars are alternately regarded as the death-agony 
of freedom and as the destined channel through which the 
world was led to the blessings of an uncontrolled despotism. 
His ideas are borrowed indiffiprently from the Epicurean 


1/8 Latin Literature. [m. 

vA Stoical philosophies according to the ccxivemeiice of 
the moment. Great events and actions do not kindle in 
him any imaginative sympathy ; they are greedily seized as 
opportunities for more and more immoderate flights of 
extravagant embellishment. He ''prates of momitains ; ^ 
his ** phrase conjures the wandering stars, and makes them 
stand like wonder-wotmded hearers ; " freedom, virtue, &te, 
the sea and the sim, gods and men before whom the gods 
themselves stand abased, hurtle through the poem in a con- 
fused thunder of sonorous phrase. Such brilliance, in the 
exact manner that was then most admired, dazzled his 
contemporaries and retained a permanent influence over 
later poets. Statius, himself an author of far higher poetical 
gifts, speaks of him in terms of almost extravagant admira- 
tion ; with a more balanced judgment Quintilian sums him 
up in words which may be taken as on the whole the final 
criticism adopted by the world; ardens et condtatus et 
sententiis clarissimus, et, ui dicam quod sentio, magis oratari- 
bus quam poetis imitandus. 

One of Lucan's intimate friends was a young man of 
high family, Aulus Persius Flaccus of Volaterrae in Etruria, 
a near relation of the celebrated Arria, wife of Paetus. 
Through his kinswoman he was early introduced to the 
circle of earnest thinkers and moralists among whom the 
higher life was kept up at Rome amid the corruption of 
the Neronian age. The gentle and delicate boy won the 
hearts of all who knew him. When he died, at the age of 
twenty-eight, a little book of six satires, which he had 
written with much effort and at long intervals, was retouched 
by his master, the Stoic philosopher Comutus, and published 
by another friend, Caesius Bassus, himself a poet of some 
reputation. Several other writings which Persius left were 
destroyed by the advice of Comutus. The six pieces — 
only between six and seven hundred lines in all — were at 
once recognised as showing a refined and uncommon 
literary gift. Persius, we are informed, had no admiration 


I.] Persitis, 179 

for the genius of Seneca ; and, indeed, no two styles, though 
both are deeply artificial, could be more unlike one another. 
With all his moral elevation, Seneca was a courtier, an 
opportunist, a man * of the world : Stoicism took a very 
different colour in the boy " of maidenly modesty," as his 
biographer tells us, who lived in a household of devoted 
female relations, and only knew the world as a remote 
spectator. Though within the narrow field of his own 
experience he shows keen observation and delicate power 
of portraiture, the world that he knows is mainly one of 
books ; his perpetual imitations of Horace are fcot so much 
plagiarisms as the unaffected outcome of the mind of a 
very young student, to whom the Satires of Horace were 
more familiar than the Rome of his own day. So, too, 
the involved and obscure style which has made him the 
paradise of commentators is less a deliberate literary 
artifice than the natural effect of looking at everything 
through a literary medium, and choosing phrases, not for 
their own fitness, but for the associations they recall. His 
deep moral earnestness, his gentleness of nature, and, it 
must be added, his want of humour, made him a favoiTrite 
author beyond the circles which were merely attracted by 
his verbal obscurities and the way in which he locks up 
his meaning in hints and allusions. His unquestionable 
dramatic power might, in later life, have ripened into really 
great achievement ; as it is, he lives to us chiefly in the few 
beautiful passages where he slips into being natural, and 
draws, with a grace and charm that are strikingly absent 
from the rest of his writing, the picture of his own quiet 
life as a student, and of the awakening of his moral and 
intellectual nature at the touch of philosophy. 

Lucan and Persius represent the effect which Roman 
Stoicism had on two natures of equal sensibility but widely 
different quality and taste. Among the many other pro- 
fessors or adherents of the Stoic school in the age of Nero, 
a considerable number were also authors, but the habit of 

l8o Latin Literature. pll. 

writing in Greek, which a hundred years later grew to such 
^proportions as to threaten the continued existence of Latin 
literature, had already taken root. The three most dis- 
tinguished representatives of the stricter Stoicism, Comutus, 
Quintus Sextius, and Gains Musonius Rufiis (the first and 
last of whom were exiled by Nero) wrote on philosophy 
in Greek, though they seem to have written in Latin on 
other subjects. Musonius was, indeed, hardly more Roman 
than his own most illustrious pupil, the Phrygian Epictetus. 
Stoicism, as they understood it, left no room for nationality, 
and little for writing as a fine art. 

This growing prevalence of Greek at Rome combined 
with political reasons to check the production of important 
prose works. History more especially languished under 
the jealous censorship of the government. The only im- 
portant historical work of the period is one of which the 
subject could hardly excite suspicion, the Life of Alexander 
the Greaty by Quintus Curtius Rufus. The precise date is 
uncertain, and different theories have assiciied it to an 
earlier or later period in the reign of Augustus or of(yespasian^ 
The subject is one which hardly any degree of dulness in 
the writer could make wholly uninteresting. But the clear 
and orderly narrative of Curtius, written in f style studied 
from that of Livy, but kept within simpler limits, has real 
merit of its own; and against his imperfect technical 
knowledge of campaigns and battles must be set the pains 
he took to consult the best Greek authorities. 

Memoirs were written in the Neronian age by numbers 
both of men and women. Those of Ihe Empress Agrippina 
were used by Tacitus ; and we have references to others by 
the two great Roman generals of the period, Suetonius Pau- 
linus and Domitius Corbulo. The production of scientific 
or technical treatises, which had been so profuse in the 
preceding generation, still went on. Only two of any im- 
portance are extant; one of these, the Chorographia of 
Pomponius Mela, a geographical manual based on the 

1.] Columella. i8i 

best authorities and embellished with descriptions of places, 
peoples, and customs, is valuable as the earliest and one of 
the most complete systems of ancient geography which 
we possess ; but in literary merit it falls far short of the 
other, the elaborate work on agriculture by Lucius Junius 
Moderatus Columella. Both Mela and Columella were 
natives of Spain, and thus belong to the Spanish school 
of Latin authors, which begins with the Senecas and is 
continued later by Martial and Quintilian. But while Mela, 
in his style, followed the new fashion. Columella, an 
enthusiast for antiquity and a warm admirer of the Augustan 
writers, reverts to the more classical manner, which a little 
later became once more predominant in the writers of the 
Flavian period. His simple and dignified style is much above 
the level of a mere technical treatise. His prose, indeed, 
may be read with more pleasure than the verse ui which, 
by a singular caprice, one of the twelve books is composed. 
In one of the most beautiful episodes of the Georgicsy 
Virgil had briefly touched on the subject of gardening, and 
left it to be treated by others who might come after him : 
praetereo atque aliis post me memoranda reltnquo. At the 
instance, he says, of friends. Columella attempts to fill up 
the gap by a fifth Georgic on horticulture. He approaches 
the task so modestly, and carries it out so simply, that 
critics are not inclined to be very severe ; but he was no 
poet, and the book is little more than a cento from Virgil, 
carefully and smoothly written, and hardly if at all disfigured 
by pretentiousness or rhetorical conceits. 

The same return upon the Virgilian manner is shown in 
the seven Eclogues, composed in the early years of Nero's 
reign, by Titus Calpumius Siculus. These are remarkable 
rather as the only specimens for nearly three hundred 
years of a direct attempt to continue the manner of VirgiPs 
Bucolics than for any substantive merit of their own. That 
manner, indeed, is so exceptionally tmmanageable that it 
is hardly surprising that it should have been passed over 

1 82 Latin Literature. [III. 

by later poets of high original gift; but that even poets 
of the second and third rate should hardly ever have 
attempted to imitate poems which stood in the very first 
rank of fame bears striking testimony to Virgil's singular 
quality of unapproachableness. The Eclogues of Calpumius 
(six of them are Eclogues within the ordinary meaning, the 
seventh rather a brief Georgic on the care of sheep and 
goats, made formally a pastoral by being put into the mouth 
of an old shepherd sitting in the shade at midday) are, 
notwithstanding their almost servile imitation of Virgil^ 
written in such graceful verse, and with so few serious lapses 
of taste, that they may be read with considerable pleasure. 
The picture, in the sixth Eclogue, of the fawn lying among;^ 
the white lilies, will recall to English readers one of the 
prettiest fancies of Marvell ; that in the second, of Flora 
scattering her tresses over the spring meadow, and Pomona 
playing under the orchard boughs, is at least a vivid 
pictorial presentment of a sufficiently well-worn theme. A 
more normal specimen of Calpumius' manner may be 
instanced in the lines (v. 52-62) where one of the most 
beautiful passages in the third Georgic^ the description of 
a long summer day among the Italian hill-pastures, is 
simply copied in different words. 

The didactic poem on volcanoes, called Aetna^ probably 
written by the Lucilius to whom Seneca addressed his 
writings on natural philosophy, belongs to the same period 
and shows the same influences. Of the other minor poetical 
works of the time the only one which requires special 
mention is the tragedy of Octavia^ which is written in 
the same style as those of Seneca, and was long included 
among his works. Its only interest is as the single extant 
specimen of the fabula praetexta, or drama with a Roman 
subject and characters. The characters here include Nero 
and Seneca himself. But the treatment is as conventional 
and declamatory as that of the mythological tragedies 
among which it has been preserved, and the result, if 
possible, even flatter and more tedious* 

I.] Petronius, 183 

One other work of extreme and unique interest survives 
from the reign of Nero, the fragments of a novel by 
Petronius Arbiter, one of the Emperor*s intimate circle in 
the excesses of his later years. In the year 66 he fell a 
victim to the jealousy of the infamous and all but omnipotent 
Tigellinus; and on this occasion Tacitus sketches his life 
and character in a few of his strong masterly touches. 
' " His days were passed," says Tacitus, " in sleep, his nights 
in the duties or pleasures of life ; where others toiled for 
fame he had lounged into it, and he had the reputation not, 
like most members of that profligate society, of a dissolute 
wanton, but of a trained master in luxury. A sort of 
careless ease, an entire absence of self-consciousness, added 
the charm of complete simplicity to all he said and did. 
Yet, as governor of Bithynia, and afterwards as ' consul, he 
showed himself a vigorous and capable administrator ; then 
relapsing into the habit of assuming the mask of vice, he 
was adopted as Arbiter of Elegance into the small circle of 
Nero's intimate companions ; no luxury was charming or 
refined till Petronius had given it his approval, and the 
jealousy of Tigellinus was roused against a rival and master 
in the science of debauchery." 

The novel written by this remarkable man was in the 
form of an autobiography narrating the adventures, in 
various Italian towns, of a Greek freedman. The fragments 
hardly enable us to trace any regular plot; its interest 
probably lay chiefly in the series of vivid pictures which it 
presented of life among all orders of society from the 
highest \o the lowest, and its accurate reproduction of 
popular language and manners. The hero of the story uses 
the ordinary Latin speech of educated persons, though, 
from the nature of the work, the style is much more colloquial 
than that of the formal prose used for serious writing. But 
the conversation of many of the characters is in the pkbeius 
sermOy the actual speech of the lower orders, of which so 
little survives in literature. It is full of solecisms and 

184 Latin Literature. [III. 

popular slang ; and where the scene lies, as it mostly does in 
the extant fragments, in the semi-Greek seaports of Southern 
Italy, it passes into what was almost a dialect of its own, 
the lingua franca of the Mediterranean under the Empire, 
A dialect of mixed Latin and Greek. The longest and 
most important fragment is the well-known Supper of 
Trimalchio, It is the description, full of brilliant wit, of 
a dinner-party given by a sort of Golden Dustman and 
nis wife, people of low birth and little education, who 
had come into an enormous fortune. Trimalchio, a figure 
drawn with extraordinary life, is constantly making himself 
ridiculous by his blunders and affectations, while he almost 
wins our liking by his childlike simplicity and good nature. 
The dinner itself, and the conversation on literature and 
art that goes on at the dinner-table, are conceived in a 
spirit of the wildest humour. Trimalchio, who has two 
libraries, besides everything else handsome about him, is 
anxious to air his erudition. " Can you tell us a story," he 
aaka a guest, " of the twelve sorrows of Hercules, or how 
the Cyclops pulled Ulysses* leg? I used to read them in 
Homer when I was a boy." After an interruption, caused 
by the entrance of a boar, roasted whole and stuffed with 
sausages, he goes on to talk of his collection of plate ; his 
unique cups of Corinthian bronze (so called firom a dealer 
named Corinthus ; the metal was invented by Hannibal at 
the capture of Troy), and his huge silver vases, " a hundred 
of them, more or less,** chased with the story of Daedahis 
shutting Niobe into the Trojan horse, and Cassandra killiDg 
her sons — "the dead children so good, you would think 
they were aUve ; for I sell my knowledge in matters of art 
fwr no money.** Presently there follow the two wonderful 
ghost stories — that of the wer-wolfi told by one of the guests^ 
and that of the witches by Trimalchio himself in return— ;- 
both masterpieces of vivid realism. As the evening advances 
the fun becomes more ^t and furious^ The cook,, who 
li^ excelled himself in the ingaiuity c^ his dishes^ is called 

I.] Petronius. 185 

up to take a seat at table, and after favouring the company 
with an imitation of a popular tragedian, begins to make 
/t^ book with Trimalchio over the next chariot races, 
"^ortunata, Trimalchio's wife, is a little in liquor, and gets 
p to dance. Just at this point Trimalchio suddenly turns 
sentimental, and, after giving elaborate directions for his 
own obsequies, begins to cry. The whole company are in 
tears round him when he suddenly rallies, and proposes 
that, as death is certain, they shall all go and have a hot 
bath. In the little confusion that follows, the narrator and 
his friend slip quietly away. This scene of exquisite fooling 
is quite unique in Greek or Latin literature : the breadth 
and sureness of touch are almost Shakespearian. Another 
fragment relates the famous story of the Matron of Ephesus^ 
one of the popular tales which can be traced back to India, 
but which appears here for the first time in the Western 
world. Others deal with literary criticism, and ' include 
passages in verse ; the longest of these, part of an epic on 
the civil wars in the manner of Lucan, is recited by one 
of the principal characters, the professional poet Eumolpus, 
to exemplify the rules he has laid down for epic poetry in 
a most curious discussion that precedes it. That so small 
a part of the novel has been preserved is deeply to be 
regretted; it must have been comparable, in dramatic 
power and (notwithstanding the gross indecency of many 
passages) in a certain large sanity, to the great work of 
Fielding. In all the refined writing of the next age we 
never again come on anything at once so masterly and 
so human. 



To the age of the rhetoricians succeeded the age of the 
scholars. Quintilian, PUny, and Statius, the three foremost 
authors of the Flavian dyna sty, have common qualities of 
great learning and sober judgment which give them a 
certain mutual affinity, and divide them sharply from their 
immediate predecessors. The effort to outdo the Augustan 
writers had exhausted itself; the new school rather aimed 
at reproducing their manner. In the hands of inferior 
writers this attempt only issued in tame imitations; but 
with those of really original power it carried the Latin of 
the Silver Age to a point higher in quality than it ever 
reached, except in the single case of Tacitus, a writer of 
unique genius who stands in a class of his own. 

The reigns of the three Flavian emperors nearly occupy 
the last thirty years of the first ceiitury after Christ. The 
" year of four Emperors " which passed between the down- 
fall of Nero and the accession of Vespasian had shaken 
the whole Empire to its foundations. The recovery from 
that shock left the Roman world established on a new 
footing. In literature, no less than in government and 
finance, a feverish period of inflated credit had brought it 
to the verge of ruin. At the beginning of his reign 
Vespasian announced a deficit of four hundred million 
pounds (a sum the like of which had never been heard of 



II.] Statins. 187 

before) in the public exchequer; some similar estimate 
might have been formed by a fanciful analogy of the 
collapse that had to be made good in literature, when style 
could no longer bear the tremendous overdrafts made on 
it by Seneca and Lucan. And in the literary as in the 
political world there was no complete recovery : throughout 
the second century we have to trace the gradual decline of 
letters going on alongside of that mysterious decay of the 
Empire itself before which a continuously admirable govern- 
ment was all but helpless. 

Publius Papinius Statius, the most eminent of the poets 
of this age, was bom towards the end of the reign of 
Tiberius, and seems to have died before the accession of 
Nerva. His poetry can all be assigned to the reign of Domi- 
tian, or the few years immediately preceding it. As to his 
life little is known, probably because it passed without 
much incident. He was bom at Naples, and retumed to 
it in advanced age after the completion of his Thebaid ; 
but the greater part of his life was spent at Rome, where 
his father was a grammarian of some distinction who had 
acted for a time as tutor to Domitian. He had thus access 
to the court, where he improved his opportunities by un- 
stinted adulation of the Emperor and his favourite eunuch 
Earinus. The curious mediaeval tradition of his conversion 
to Christianity, which is so finely used by Dante in the 
PurgatoriOy cannot be traced to its origin, and does not 
appear to have any historical foundation. 

Twelve years were spent by Statius over his epic poem 
on the War of Thebes, which was published about the year 
92, with a florid dedication to Domitian. After its com- 
pletion he began another epic, on an even more imposing 
scale, on the Hfe of Achilles and the whole of the Trojan 
war. Of this Achilleid only the first and part of the 
second book were ever completed ; had it continued on 
the same scale it would have been the longest of Greek or 
Latin epics. At various times after the publication of the 

1 88 Latin Literature, [III. 

Thebaid appeared the five books of SHvae, miscellaneous 
and occasional poems on different subjects, often of a 
personal nature. Another epic, on the campaign of Domi- 
tian in Germany, has not been preserved. 

The Thebaid became very famous; later poets, like 
Ausonius or Claudian, constantly imitate it. Its smooth 
versification, copious diction, and sustained elegance made 
it a sort of canon of poetical technique. But, itself, it rises 
beyond the merely mechanical level. Without any quality 
that can quite be called genius. Statins had real poetical 
feeling. His taste preserves him from any great extrava- 
gances ; and among much tedious rhetoric and cumbrous 
mythology, there is enough of imagination and pathos to 
make the poem interesting and even charming. At a time 
when Guercino and the Caracci were counted great masters 
in the sister art, the Thebaid was also held to be a master- 
piece. Besides complete versions by inferior hands, both 
Pope and Gray took the pains to translate portions of it 
into English verse, and it is perpetually quoted in the 
literature of the eighteenth century. It is, indeed, perhaps 
its severest condemnation that it reads best in quotations. 
Not only the more highly elaborated passages, but almost 
any passage taken at random, may be read with pleasure 
and admiration ; those who have had the patience to read 
it through, however much they may respect the continuous 
excellence of its workmanship, will (as Mrith the Gierusa- 
lemme Liberata of Tasso) feel nearly as much respect for 
their own achievement as for that of the^poet.. 

The Silvaey consisting as they do of comparatively short 
pieces, display the excellences of Statius to greater advan- 
tage. Of the thirty-two poems, six are in l)Tic metres, 
the rest being all written in the smooth graceful hexameters 
of which the author of the Thebaid was so accomplished 
a master. The subjects, for the most part of a familiar 
nature, are very various. A touching and affectionate poem 
to his wife Claudia is one of the best known. Several 

II.] Statins, 189 

are on the death of friends ; one of very great beauty is 
on the marriage of his brother poet, Arruntius Stella, to a 
lady with the beautiful name of Violantilla. The descriptive 
pieces on the villas of acquaintances at Tivoli and Sorrento, 
and on the garden of another in Rome, are full of a genuine 
feeling for natural beauty. The poem on the death of 
his father, though it has passages of romantic fancy, is 
deformed by an excess of literary allusions; but that on 
the death of. his adopted son (he had noKchildren.j^^-his' 
jown), which ends the collection, is very touching in the 
sincerity of its grief and its reminiscences of the dead boy's 
infancy. Perhaps the finest, certainly the most remarkable 
of all these pieces is the short poem (one might almost call 
it a sonnet) addressed to Sleep. This, though included in 
the last book of the Siivae, must have been written in 
earlier life; it shows that had Statins not been entangled 
in the composition of epics by the conventional taste of his 
age, he might have struck out a new manner in ancient 
poetry. The poem is so brief that it may be quoted in 
fuU: — 

Crimine quo merui iuveniSy placidissime dtvonty 
Quove errore misery donis ut solus egerem, 
Somney tuisf Tacet omne pecus, volucresque^feraequey 
Et simulant fessos curvata cacumina somnos; 
Nee trucibus fluviis idem sonus ; occidit horror 
AequoriSy et terns maria inclinata quiescunt 
Septima iam rediens Phoebe mihi respicit aegras 
Stare genas, totidem Oeteae Paphiaeque revisunt 
LampadeSj et toties nostros Tithonia questus 
PraeteHt et gelido spargit miserata flagello, 
Unde ego sufficiam ? Non si mihi luminh milk 
Quae sacer alterna tantum statione tenebat 
Argus y et haud unquam vigilabat corpore toto. 
At nunCy heu, altquis longa sub nocte pueUae 
Brachia nexa tenenSy ultro te, SomtUy repellit: 

igo Latin Literature, pll. 

Inde vent : nee te totas infundere pennas 
Luminibus compello meis : hoc turba precatur 
Laetior; extremae me tange cacumine virgae, 
Sufficitj aut Uviter suspense poplite transi. 

Were the three lines beginning Unde ego sufficiam struck 
out — and one might almost fancy them to have been in- 
serted later by an unhappy second thought — the remainder 
of this poem would be as perfect as it is unique. The 
famous sonnet of Wordsworth on the same subject must 
at once occur to an English reader; but the poem in its 
manner, especially in the d)ring cadence of the last two 
lines, recalls even more strongly some of the finest sonnets 
of Keats. " Had Statins written often thus," in the words 
Johnson uses of Gray, "it had been vain to blame, and 
useless to praise him." 

The two other epic poets contemporary with Statius 
whose works are extant, Valerius Flaccus and Silius Italicus, 
belong generally to the same school, but stand on a much 
lower level of excellence. The former is only known as 
the author of the Argonautica, An allusion in the proem 
of his epic to the recent destruction of Jerusalem by Titus 
in the year 70, and another in a later book to the great 
eruption of Vesuvius in 79, fix the date of the poem ; and 
Quintilian, writing in the later years of Domitian, refers to 
the poet's recent death. From another passage in the 
Argonautica it has been inferred that Flaccus was one of 
the college of quindecemvirs, and therefore of high family. 
The Argonautica follows the well-known poem of Apollonius 
Rhodius, but by his diffuse rhetorical treatment the author 
expands the story to such a length that in between five and 
six thousand lines he has only got as far as the escape of 
Jason and Medea from Colchos. Here the poem breaks 
off abruptly in the eighth book ; it was probably meant to 
consist of twelve, and to end with the return of the Argo- 
nauts to Greece. In all respects, except the choice of 

^ ' -wiifciitMaJ^ 

II.] Silius Ttalicus, 191 

subject, Valerius Flaccus is far inferior to Statius. He 
cannot indeed wholly destroy the perennial charm of the 
story of the Golden Fleece, but he comes as near doing so 
as is reasonably possible. His versification is correct, but 
without freedom or variety; and incidents and persons 
are alike presented through a cloud of monotonous and 
mechanical rhetoric. 

If Valerius Flaccus to some degree redeemed his imagi- 
native poverty by the choice of his subject, the other epic 
poet of the Flavian era, Tiberius Catius Silius Italicus, 
chose a subject which no ingenuity could have adapted to 
epic treatment. His Punic War may fairly contend for 
the distinction of being the worst epic ever written; and 
its author is the most striking example in Latin literature 
of the incorrigible amateur. He had, in earlier hfe, passed 
through a distinguished official career; he was consul the 
year before the fall of Nero, and in the political revolutions 
which followed conducted himself with such prudence that, 
through an intimate friend of Vitellius, he remained in 
favour under Vespasian. After a term of further service as 
proconsul of Asia, he retired to a dignified and easy leisure. 
His love of literature was sincere ; he prided himself on 
owning one of Cicero*s villas, and the land which held 
VirgiPs grave, and he was a generous patron to men of 
letters. The fiilsome compliments paid to him by Martial 
(who has the effrontery to speak of him as a combined 
Virgil and Cicero) are, no doubt, only an average specimen 
of the atmosphere which surrounded so munificent a patron ; 
but the admiration which he openly expressed for the slave 
Epictetus does him a truer honour. The Bellum Punicum, 
in seventeen books, is longer than the Odyssey. It closely 
follows the history as told by Livy; but the elements of 
almost epic grandeur in the contest between Rome and 
Hannibal all disappear amid masses of tedious machinery. 
Without any invention or constructive power of his own, 
Silius copies with tasteless pedantry all the outworn traditions 

192 Latin Literature, [III. 

of the heroic epic. What Homer or Virgil has done, he 
must needs do too. The Romans are the Dardanians or 
the Aeneadae : Juno interferes in Hannibal's favour, and 
Venus, hidden in a cloud, watches the battle of the Trebia 
from a hill. Hannibal is urged to war by a dream like that 
of Agamemnon in the Iliad ; he is equipped with a spear 
" fatal to many thousands " of the enemy, and a shield, like 
that of Aeneas, embossed with subjects from Carthaginian 
history, and with the river Ebro flowing round the edge 
as an ingenious variant of the Ocean-river on the shield 
of Achilles. A Carthaginian fleet cruising off the coast of 
Italy falls in with Proteus, who takes the opportunity of 
prophesying the course of the war. Hannibal at Zama 
pursues a. phantom of Scipio, which flies before him and 
disappear^ like that of Aeneas before Tumus. Such was 
the degradation to which the noble epic machinery had 
now sunk. Soon after the death of Silius the poem seems 
to have fallen into merited oblivion; there is a single 
reference to it in a poet of the fifth century, and thereafter 
it remained unknown or unheard of until a manuscript 
discovered by Poggio Bracciolini brought it to light again 
early in the fifteenth century. 

The works of the other Flavian poets, Curiatius Matemus, 
Saleius Bassus, Arruntius Stella, and the poetess Sulpicia, 
are lost ; all else that survives of the verse of the period 
is the work of a writer of a different order, but of consider- 
able importance and value, the epigrammatist Martial. By 
no means a poet of the first rank, hardly perhaps a poet 
at all according to any strict definition, he has yet a genius 
of his own which for many ages made him the chief and 
almost the sole model for a particular kind of literature. 

Marcus Valerius Martialis was born at Augusta Bilbilis 
in Central Spain towards the end of the reign of Tiberius. 
He came to Rome as a young man during the reign of 
Nero, when his countrymen, Seneca and Lucan, were at 
the height of their reputation. Through their patronage 


II.] Martial. 193 

he obtained a footing, if not at court, yet among the 
wealthy amateurs who extended a less dangerous protection 
to men of letters. For some thirty-five years he led the 
life of a dependant; under Domitian his assiduous flattery 
gained for him the honorary tribunate which conferred 
equestrian rank, though not the rewards of hard cash which 
he would probably have appreciated more. The younger 
Pliny, who speaks of him with a sHghtly supercilious 
approval, repaid with a more substantial gratification a 
poem comparing him to Cicero. Martial's gift for occasional 
verse just enabled him to live up three pair of stairs in the 
city ; in later years, when he had an income from booksellers 
as well as from private patrons, he could afford a tiny 
country house among the Sabine hills. Early in the reign 
of Domitian he began to publish regularly, bringing out a 
volume of epigrams every year. After the accession of 
Trajan he returned to his native town, from which, 
however, he continued to send fresh volumes of epigrams 
to his Roman publishers. There his talent for flattery at 
last bore substantial fruit ; a rich lady of the neighbourhood 
presented him with a little estate, and though the longing 
for the country, which had grown on him in Rome, was 
soon replaced by a stronger feeling of regret for the 
excitement of the capital, he spent the remainder of his life 
in material comfort. 

The collected works of Martial, as published after his 
death, which probably took place about the year 102, 
consist of twelve books of miscellaneous Epigrams^ which 
are prefaced by a book of pieces called Liber Spectaculorum, 
upon the performances given by Titus and Domitian in the 
capital, especially in the vast amphitheatre erected by the 
former. At the end are added two books of Xenia and 
Apophoreta, distichs written to go with the Christmas presents 
of all sorts which were interchanged at the festival of the 
Saturnalia. These last are, of course, not " distinguished for 
a strong poetic feeling," any more than the cracker mottoes 

194 Latin LiteraUire. [III. 

of modern times. But the twelve books of Epigrams ^ while 
they include work of all degrees of goodness and badness, 
yj are invaluable from the vivid picture which they give of 
actual daily life at Rome in the first century. Few writers 
of equal ability show in their work such a total absence of 
character, such indifference to all ideas or enthusiasms; 
yet this very quality makes the verse of Martial a more 
perfect mirror of the external aspects of Roman life. A 
certain intolerance of hypocrisy is the nearest approach 
Martial ever makes to moral feeling. His perpetual flattery 
of Domitian, though gross as a mountain — it generally takes 
the form of comparing him with the Supreme Being, to the 
disadvantage of the latter — has no more serious political 
import than there is serious moral import in the almost 
unexampled indecency of a large proportion of the epigrams. 
The " candour " noted in him by Pliny is simply that of 
a sheet of paper which is indifferent to what is written upon 
it, fair or foul. He may claim the merit — nor is it an 
inconsiderable one — of being totally free from pretence. 
In one of the most graceful of his poems, he enumerates 
to a friend the things which make up a happy life : " Be 
yourself, and do not wish to be something else," is the line 
which sums up his counsel. To his own work he extends 
the same easy tolerance with which he views the follies and 
vices of society. " A few good, some indifferent, the greater 
number bad " — so he describes his epigrams ; what opening 
is left after this for hostile criticism ? If elsewhere he hints 
that only indolence prevented him from producing more 
important work, so harmless an affectation may be passed 
over in a writer whose clearness of observation and mastery 
of slight but lifelike portraiture are really of a high order. 

By one of the curious accidents of literary history 
Martial, as the only Latin epigrammatist who left a large 
mass of work, gave a meaning to the word epigram from 
which it is only now beginning to recover. The art, 
practised with such infinite grace by Greek artists of almost 


II.] The Elder Pliny, 195 

every age between Solon and Justinian, was just at this 
period sunk to a low ebb. The contemporary Greek 
epigrammatists whose work is preserved in the Palatine 
Anthology, from Nicarchus and Lucilius to Strato, all show 
the same heavinessjof Jiandhng and the same tiresome 
insistence on making a point, which prevent Martial's 
epigrams from being placed in the first rank. But while in 
any collection of Greek epigrammatic poetry these authors 
naturally sink to their own place. Martial, as well by the 
mere mass of his work — some twelve hundred pieces in all, 
exclusive of the cracker mottoes — as by his animation and 
pungent wit, set a narrow and rather disastrous type for 
later literature. He appealed strongly to all that was worst 
in Roman taste — its heavy-handedness, its admiration of 
verbal cleverness, its tendency towards brutality. Half a 
century later, Verus Caesar, that wretched creature whom 
Hadrian had adopted as his successor, and whose fortunate 
death left the Empire to the noble rule of Antoninus Pius, 
called Martial " his Virgil : " the incident is highly significant 
of the corruption of taste which in the course of the second 
century concurred with other causes to bring Latin literature 
to decay and almost to extinction. ^^c^,,,,^ 

Among the learned Romans of this age of great learning, 
the elder Pliny, aetatis suae doctissimuSy easily took the first 
place. Bom in the middle of the reign of Tiberius, Gains 
Plinius Secundus of Comum passed his life in high public 
employments, both military and civil, which took him 
successively over nearly all the provinces of the Empire. 
He served in Germany, in the Danubian provinces, in 
Spain, in Gaul, in Africa, and probably also in Syria, on 
the staff of Titus, during the Jewish war. In August of 
the year 79 he was in command of the fleet stationed at 
Misenum when the memorable eruption of Vesuvius took 
place. In his zeal for scientific investigation he set sail for 
the spot in a man-of-war, and, lingering too near the zone 
of the eruption, was suffocated by the rain of hot ashes. 

196 Latin Literature, [III. 

The account of his death, given by his nephew in a letter 
to the historian Tacitus, is one of the best known passages 
in the classics. 

By amazing industry and a most rigid economy of time, 
Pliny combined with his continuous official duties an 
immense reading and a Uterary production of great scope 
and value. A hundred and sixty volumes of his extracts 
from writers of all kinds, written, we are told, on both sides 
of the paper in an extremely small hand, were bequeathed 
by him to his nephew. Besides works on grammar, rhetoric, 
military tactics, and other subjects, he wrote two important 
histories — one, in twenty books, on the wars on the German 
frontier, the other a general history of Rome in thirty-one 
books, from the accession of Nero to the joint triumph of 
Vespasian and Titus after the subjugation of the Jewish 
revolt. Both these valuable works are completely lost, 
nor is it possible to determine how far their substance 
reappears in Tacitus and Suetonius ; the former, however, 
in both Annals and HistorieSy repeatedly cites him as an 
authority. But we fortunately possess the most important 
of his works, the thurty-seven books of his Natural History. 
This is not, indeed, a great work of literature, though its 
style, while sometimes heavy and sometimes mannered, is 
on the whole plain, straightforward, and unpretentious; 
but it is a priceless storehouse of information on every 
branch of natural science as known to the ancient world. 
It was published with a dedication to Titus two years before 
Pliny's death, but continued during the rest of his life to 
receive his additions and corrections. It was compiled 
from a vast reading. Nearly five hundred authors (about 
a hundred and fifty Roman, the rest foreign) are cited in 
his catalogue of authorities. The plan of this great 
encyclopedia was carefully thought out before its composition 
was begun. It opens with a general system of physiography, 
and then passes successively to geography, anthropology, 
human physiology, zoology and comparative physiology. 


II.] The Elder Pliny, 197 

botany, including agriculture and horticulture, medicine, 
mineralogy, and the fine arts. 

After being long held as an almost infallible authority, 
Pliny, in more recent times, fell under the reproach of 
credulity and want of sufficient discrimination in the value 
of his sources. Further research has gone far to reinstate 
his reputation. Without having any profound original 
knowledge of the particular sciences, he had a naturally 
scientific mind. His tendency to give what is merely 
curious the same attention as what is essentially important, 
has incidentally preserved much valuable detail, especially 
as regards the arts; and modem research often tends to 
confirm the anecdotes which were once condemned as 
plainly erroneous and even absurd. Pliny has, further, the 
great advantage of being shut up in no philosophical 
system. His philosophy of life, and his religion so far as 
it appears, is that of his age, a moderate and rational 
Stoicism. Like his contemporaries, he complains of the 
modern falling away from nature and the decay of morals. 
But it is as the conscientious student and the candid 
* observer that he habitually appears. In diligence, accuracy, 
and freedom from preconception or prejudice, he represents 
the highest level reached by ancient science after Aristotle 
and his immediate successors. 

Of the more specialised scientific treatises belonging to 
this period, only two are extant, the three books on Strategy 
by Sextus Julius Frontinus, and a treatise by the same 
author on the public water-supply of Rome ; both belong 
to strict science, rather than to literature. The schools of 
rhetoric and grammar continued to flourish : among many 
imimportant names that of Quintilian stands eminent, as 
not only a grammarian and rhetorician, but a fine critic 
and a writer of high substantive value. 

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus of Calagurris, a small town 
on the Upper Ebro, is the last, and perhaps the most dis- 
tinguished of that school of Spanish writers which bulks 

198 Latin Literature. [III. 

so largely in the history of the first century. He was 
educated at Rome, and afterwards returned to his native 
town as a teacher of rhetoric. There he made, or improved, 
the acquaintance of Servius Sulpicius Galba, proconsul of 
Tarraconensian Spain in the later years of Nero. When 
Galba was declared Emperor by the senate, he took 
Quintilian with him to Rome. There he was appointed 
a public teacher of rhetoric, with a salary from the privy 
purse. He retained his fame and his favour through the 
succeeding reigns. Domitian made him tutor to the two 
grand-nephews whom he destined for his own successors, 
and raised him to consular rank. For about twenty years 
he remained the most celebrated teacher in the capital, 
combining his professorship with a large amount of actual 
pleading in the law-courts. His published works belong 
to the later years of his life, when he had retired from the 
bar and from public teaching. His first important treatise, 
on the decay of oratory, De Causis Corruptae Eloquentiae^ 
is not extant. It was followed, a few years later, in or 
about the year 93, by his great work, the Institutio Oratoria, 
which sums up the teaching and criticism of his life. 

The contents of this work, which at once became the 
final and standard treatise on the theory and practice of 
Latin oratory, are very elaborate and complete. In the 
first book, Quintilian discusses the preliminary training 
required before the pupil is ready to enter on the study of 
his art, beginning with a sketch of the elementary education 
of the child from the time he leaves the nursery, which is 
even now of remarkable interest. The second book deals 
with the general principles and scope of the art of oratory, 
and continues the discussion of the aims and methods of 
education in its later stages. The five books from the 
third to the seventh are occupied with an exhaustive 
treatment of the matter of oratory, under the heads of what 
were known to the Roman schools by the names of invention 
and disposition* The greater part of these books is, pf 

II.] Quintilian. 199 

course, highly technical. The next four books, from the 
eighth to the eleventh, treat of the manner of oratory, or 
all that is included in the word style in its widest significa- 
tion. It is in this part of the treatise that Quintilian, in 
relation to the course of general reading both in Greek and 
Latin that should be pursued by the young orator, gives 
the masterly sketch of Latin literature which is the most ^'^- 
famous portion of the whole work. The twelfth book, 
which concludes the work, reverts to education in the 
highest and most extended sense, that of the moral quali- 
fications of the great orator, and the exhaustive discipline 
of the whole nature throughout life which must be con- 
tinued unfalteringly to the end. 

Now that the formal study of rhetoric has ceased to be 
a part of the higher education, the more strictly technical 
parts of Quintilian's work, like those of the Rhetoric of 
Aristotle, have, in a great measure, lost their relevance to 
actual life, and with it their general interest to the world 
at large. Both the Greek and the Roman masterpiece are 
read now rather for their incidental observations upon 
human nature and the fundamental principles of art, than 
for instruction in a particular form of art which, in the 
course of time, has become obsolete. These observations, 
in Quintilian no less than in Aristotle, are often both 
luminous and profound. A collection of the memorable 
sentences of Quintilian, such as has been made by his 
modem editors, is full of sayings of deep wisdom and 
enduring value. Nulla mansit ars qualis inventa est^ nee 
intra initium stetit; Plerumque facilius est plus facere, quatn 
idem; Nihil in studiis parvum est; Cito scribendo nonfitut 
bene scribatur, bene scribendo fit ut cito ; Omnia nostra dum 
nascuntur placent, alioqui nee scriberentur ; — such sayings as 
these, expressed with admirable terseness and lucidity, are 
scattered all over the work, and have a value far beyond 
the hmits of any single study. If they do not drop from 
QuintiHan with the same curious negligence as they do 

2CX) Latin Literature, [III. 

from Aristotle (whose best things are nearly always said in 
a parenthesis), the advantage is not wholly with the Greek 
author; the more orderly and finished method of the 
Roman teacher marks a higher constructive literary power 
than that of Aristotle, whose singular genius made him 
indeed the prince of lecturers, but did not place him in the 
first rank of writers. 

Beyond these incidental touches of wisdom and insight, 
which give an enduring value to the whole substance of the 
work, the chief interest for modem readers in the Institutio 
Oratoria lies in three portions which are, more or less, 
episodic to the strict purpose of the book, though they sum 
up the spirit in which it is written. These are the dis- 
cussions on the education of children in the first, and on 
the larger education of mature life in the last book, and the 
critical sketch of ancient literature up to his own time, 
which occupies the first chapter of the tenth. Almost for 
the first time in history — for the ideal system of Plato, 
however brilliant and suggestive, stands on quite a difierent 
footing — the theory of education was, in this age, made a 
subject of profound thought and study. The precepts of 
Quintilian, if taken in detail, address themselves to the 
formation of a Roman of the Empire, and not a citizen of 
modem Europe. But their main spirit is independent 
of the accidents of any age or country. In the breadth of 
his ideas, and in the wisdom of much of his detailed, 
advice, Quintilian takes a place in the foremost rank of 
educational writers. The dialogue on oratory written a 
few years earlier by Tacitus names, as the main cause of 
the decay of the liberal arts, not any lack of substantial 
encouragement, but the negligence of parents and the want 
of skill in teachers. To leave off vague and easy declama- 
tions against luxury and the decay of morals, and to fix on 
the great tmth that bad education is responsible for bad 
life, was the first step towards a real reform. This Quin- 
tilian insists upon with admirable clearness. Nor has any 

II.] Quintilian. 201 

writer on education grasped more firmly or expressed more 
lucidly the complementary truth that education, from the 
cradle upwards, is something which acts on the whole 
intellectual and moral nature, and whose object is the pro- 
duction of what the Romans called, in a simple form of 
words which was full of meaning, "the good man." It 
would pass beyond the province of literary criticism to 
discuss the reasons why that reform never took place, or, if 
it did, was confined to a circle too small to influence the 
downward movement of the Empire at large. They belong 
to a subject which is among the most interesting of all 
studies, and which has hardly yet been studied with ade- 
quate fulness or insight, the social history of the Roman 
world in the second century. 

One necessary part of the education of the orator was 
a course of wide and careful reading in the best literature ; 
and it is in this special connection that Quintilian devotes 
part of his elaborate discussion on style to a brief critical 
summary of the literature of Greece and that of his own 
country. The frequent citations which have already been 
made from this part of the work may indicate the very 
great ability with which it is executed. Though his special 
purpose as a professor of rhetoric is always kept in view, 
his criticism passes beyond this formal limit. He expresses, 
no doubt, what was the general opinion of the educated 
world of his own time ; but the form of his criticism is so 
careful and so choice, that many of his brief phrases have 
remained the final word on the authors, both in prose and 
verse, whom he mentions in his rapid survey. His catalogue 
is far from being, as it has been disparagingly called, a mere 
"list of the best hundred books." It is the dehberate 
judgment of the best Roman scholarship, in an age of wide 
reading and great learning, upon the masterpieces of their 
own literature. His own preference for certain periods and 
certain manners is well marked. But he never forgets that 
the object of criticism is to disengage excellences rather 

202 Latin Literature. pll. 

than to censure faults : even his pronounced aversion from 
the style of Seneca and the authors of the Neronian age 
does not prevent him from seeing their merits, and giving 
these ungrudging praise. 

It is, indeed, in Quintilian that the reaction from the early 
imperial manner comes to its climax. Statins had, to a 
certain degree, gone back to Virgil ; Quintilian goes back 
to Cicero without hesitation or reserve. He is the first of 
the Ciceronians; Lactantius in the fourth century, John 
of Salisbury in the twelfth, Petrarch in the fourteenth, 
Erasmus in the sixteenth, all in a way continue the tradition 
which he founded; nor is it surprising that the discovery 
of a complete manuscript of the Insiitutio Oraioria early 
in the fifteenth century was hailed by scholars as one of 
the most important events of the Renaissance. He is not, 
however, a mere imitator of his master's style ; indeed, his 
style is, in some features and for some purposes, a better 
one than his master's. It is as clear and fluent, and not 
so verbose. He cannot rise to the great heights of Cicero ; 
but for ordinary use it would be difficult to name a manner 
that combines so well the Ciceronian dignity with the rich 
colour and high finish added to Latin prose by the writers 
of the earlier empire. 

The body of criticism left by Quintilian in this remark- 
able chapter is the more valuable because it includes nearly 
all the great Latin writers. Classical literature, little as it 
may have seemed so at the time, was already nearing its 
end. With the generation which immediately followed, 
that of his younger contemporaries, the Silver Age closes, 
and a new age begins, which, though full of interest in 
' many ways, is no longer classical. After Tacitus and the 
younger Pliny, the main stream dwindles and loses itself 
among quicksands. The writers who continue the pure 
classical tradition are few, and of inferior power ; and the 
chief interest of Latin literature becomes turned in other 
directions, to the Christian writers on the one hand, and 

II.] Quintilian. 203 

on the other to those authors in whom we may trace the 
beginning of new styles and methods, some of which bore 
fruit at the time, while others remained undeveloped till 
the later Middle Ages. Why this final effort of purely 
Roman culture, made in the Flavian era with such sustained 
energy and ability, on the whole scarcely survived a single 
generation, is a question to which no simple answer can be 
given. It brings us once more face to face with the other 
question, which, indeed, haunts Latin literature from the 
outset, whether the conquest and absorption of Greece by 
Rome did not carry with it the seeds of a fatal weakness 
in the victorious literature. Up to the end of the Golden 
Age fresh waves of Greek influence had again and again 
given new vitality and enlarged power to the Latin language. 
That influence had now exhausted itself; for the Latin 
world Greece had no further message. That Latin literature 
began to decline so soon after the stimulating Greek influ- 
ence ceased to operate, was partly due to external causes ; 
the empire began to fight for its existence before the end 
of the second century, and never afterwards gained a pause 
in the continuous drain of its vital force. But there was 
another reason more intimate and inherent; a literature 
formed so completely on that of Greece paid the penalty 
in a certain loss of independent vitality. The gap between 
the literary Latin and the actual speech of the mass of 
Latin-speaking people became too great to bridge over. 
Classical Latin poetry was, as we have seen, written 
throughout in alien metres, to which indeed the language 
was adapted with immense dexterity, but which still re- 
mained foreign to its natural structure. To a certain degree 
the same was even true of prose, at least of the more im- 
aginative prose which was developed through a study of 
the great Greek masters of history, oratory, and philosophy. 
In the Silver Age Latin literature, feeling a great past behind 
it, definitely tried to cut itself away from Greece and stand 
on its own feet. Quintilian's criticism implies throughout 

Ghac tils' tsm- Iltjsxnturs!f wsm. *"al x fsntihg: <sS ^nftartmit i 'id l 

£9^x1: Hiarciai^ it lh» befflx imtsii],. ItxarfE^ cscsc ^dlinfis^ ttr- 
Gossk aiidtaii^. w&ils' &s is- §dl (3£ p^iltrwiiaa ttr t&oac of Ss 
(fVFiL fuaimtiT'^ Tltis (tmuitHii: gsmmmzrixBis (s£ t&s- ?ggff,. 
i&snuliim A^jSCr ^Xi3EDC3& ToDsriiis Ftn&ii% Qtantas J&aar<- 
iiii» Flsf&BDi^ s&ow t&e same tKmfeaor;: t&sir man: waA 
was iia: <£oiiinieiitin]^ on xSxs great Tjtjn- wnbexs. Hfis- 
^a&ocats srfidonff (3£ t&s Ladir poetSy ftoim Lacsstms tn 
Ptesusy ptTM^icsd b^ FboBns^ aid t&e cuimi i ifriL'arTifff am 
Ttsnsncs^ Cicero,. Ssfltxstv and Vli^ by JEffiiamiis 3m£ 
.Aaper^ were tdte work of x ggmfrarioit tn w&am: t&eae^ 
jothocs liad beironur ia cfect t^ cfaHwr?K. ^xxt Tilwalnije^. 
2fr the rpncnt prtTved not for die first or the lost thng, camut 
Ive ksigaathe tindf of thedaaBcsaloDe. 




The end, however, was not yet; and in the generation 
which immediately followed, the single imposing figure of 
Cornelius Tacitus, the last of the great classical writers, 
adds a final and, as it were, a sunset splendour to the 
literature of Rome. The reigns of Nerva and Trajan, how- 
ever much they were hailed as the beginning of a golden 
age, were really far less fertile in literary works than those 
of the Flavian Emperors ; and the boasted restoration of 
freedom of speech was almost immediately followed by an 
all but complete silence of the Latin tongue. When to 
the name of Tacitus are added those of Juvenal and the 
younger Pliny, there is literally almost no other author — 
none certainly of the slightest literary importance — to be 
chronicled until the reign of Hadrian ; and even then the 
' principal authors are Greek, while mere compilers or 
grammarians like Gellius and Suetonius are all that Latin 
literature has to show. The beginnings of Christian litera- 
ture in Minucius Felix, and of mediaeval literature in 
Apuleius and the author of the Petvigilium Veneris, rise 
in an age scanty in the amount and below mediocrity in 
the substance of its production. 

Little is known of the birth and parentage of Tacitus 
beyond the mere fact that he was a Roman of good family. 
Tradition places his birth at Interamna early in the reign 
of Nero j he passed through the regular stages of an official 


2o6 Latin Literature, [III. 

career under the three Flavian Emperors. His marriage, 
towards the end of the reign of Vespasian, to the daughter 
and only surviving child of the eminent soldier and ad- 
ministrator, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, aided him in obtaining 
rapid promotion; he was praetor in the year in which 
Domitian celebrated the Secular Games, and rose to the 
dignity of the consulship during the brief reign of Nerva. 
He was then a little over forty. When still quite a young 
man he had written the dialogue on oratory, which is one 
of the most interesting of Latin works on literary criticism ; 
but throughout the reign of Domitian his pen was wholly 
laid aside. The celebrated passage of the Agricola in 
which he accounts for this silence may or may not give 
an adequate account of the facts, but at all events gives 
the keynote of the whole of his subsequent work, and of 
that view of the imperial government of the first century 
which his genius has fixed ineradicably in the imagination 
of the world. Under Domitian a servile senate had ordered 
the works of the two most eminent martyrs of reactionary 
Stoicism, Arulenus Rusticus and Herennius Senecio, to be 
publicly burned in the forum ; " thinking that in that fire 
they consumed the voice of the Roman people, their own 
freedom, and the conscience of mankind. Great indeed," 
he bitterly continues, "are the proofs we have given of 
what we can endure. The antique time saw to the utmost 
bounds of freedom, we of servitude ; robbed by an inquisi- 
tion of the common use of speech and hearing, we should 
have lost our very memory with our voice, were it as much 
in our power to forget as to be dumb. Now at last our 
breath has come back ; yet in the nature of human frailty 
remedies are slower than their diseases, and genius and 
learning are more easily extinguished than recalled. Fifteen 
years have been taken out of our lives, while youth passed 
silently into age ; and we are the wretched survivors, not 
only of those who have been taken away from us, but of 
ourselves." Even a colourless translation may give some 

-atmt^mtm — i < mi fm ti, \ 

in.] Tacitus. 207 

idea of the distilled bitterness of this tremendous indict- 
ment. We must remember that they are the words of a 
man in the prime of life and at the height of public dis- 
tinction, under a prince of whose government he speaks in 
terms of almost extravagant hope and praise, to realise the 
spirit in which he addressed himself to paint his lurid 
portraits of Tiberius or Nero or Domitian. 

The exquisitely beautiful memoir of his father-in-law, in 
the introduction to which this passage occurs, was written 
by Tacitus in the year which succeeded his own consulship, 
and which saw the accession of Trajan. He was then 
already meditating a large historical work on the events of 
his own lifetime, for which he had, by reading and reflection, 
as well as by his own administrative experience, accumu- 
lated large materials. The essay De Ortgine Situ Moribus 
ac Populis Germaniae was published about the same time 
or a little later, and no doubt represents part of the 
material which he had collected for the chapters of his 
history dealing with the German wars, and which, as much 
of it fell outside the scope of a general history of Rome, 
Jie found it worth his while to publish as a separate treatise. 
The scheme of his work became larger in the course of its 
progress. As he originally planned it, it was to begin with 
the accession of Galba, thus dealing with a period which 
fell entirely within his own lifetime, and indeed within his 
own recollection. But after completing his account of the 
six reigns from Galba to Domitian, he did not, as he had 
at first proposed, go on to those of Nerva and Trajan, but 
resumed his task at an earlier period, and composed an 
equally elaborate history of the empiie from the death of 
Augustus down to the point where his earlier work began. 
He still cherished the hope of resuming his history from 
the accession of Nerva, but it is doubtful whether he lived 
long enough to do so. Allusions to the Eastern conquests 
of Trajan in the Annals show that the work cannot have 
been published till after the year 115, and it would seem-— 

2o6 Latin Literature. [III. 

though nothing is known as to the events or employments 
of his later life — that he did not long survive that date. 
But the thirty books of his Annals and Histories y themselves 
splendid work for a lifetime, gave the continuous history 
of the empire in the most crucial and on the whole the 
most remarkable period of its existence, the eighty-two 
year$ which succeeded the death of its founder. 

As in so many other cases, this memorable work has 
only escaped total loss by the slenderest of chances. As it 
is, only about one-half of the whole work is extant, consist- 
ing of four large fragments. The first of these, which 
begins at the beginning, breaks off abruptly in the fifteenth 
year of the reign of Tiberius. A gap of two years follows, 
and the second fragment carries on the history to Tiberius' 
death. The story of the reign of Caligula is wholly lost ; 
the third fragment begins in the seventh year of Claudius, 
and goes on as far as the thirteenth of Nero. The fourth, 
consisting of the first four and part of the fifth book of 
the earlier part of the work, contains the events of little 
more than a year, but that the terrible " year of Emperors '* 
which followed the overthrow of Nero and shook the 
Roman world to its foundations. A single manuscript has 
preserved the last two of these four fragments ; to the hand 
of one nameless Italian monk of the eleventh century we 
owe our knowledge of one of the greatest masterpieces of 
the ancient world. 

Not the least interesting point in the study of the writings 
of Tacitus is the way in which we can see his unique style 
gradually forming and changing from his earlier to his later 
manner. The dialogue De Oratoribus is his earliest extant 
work. Its scene is laid in or about the year 75. But 
Tacitus was then little if at all over twenty, and it may have 
been written some five or six years later. In this book the 
influence of Quintilian and the Ciceronian school is strongly 
marked ; there is so much of Ciceronianism in the style 
that many scholars have been inclined to assign it to some 




other autiior, or have even identified it with the lost 
treatise of Quintilian himself, on the Causes of the Decay of 
Eloquence, But its style, while it bears the general colour 
of the Silver Age, has also large traces of that compressed 
and allusive manner which Tacitus later carried to such an 
extreme degree of perfection. Full as it is of the ardor 
iuveniliSy page after page recalling that Ciceronian manner 
with which we are familiar in the Brutus or the De Oratore 
by the balance of the periods, by the elaborate similes, 
and by a certain fluid and florid evolution of what is 
really commonplace thought, a touch here and there, like 
contemnebat potius literas quam nesciebaty or vitio malignitatis 
humanae vetera semper in iaude, praesentia infastidio esse, 
or the criticism on the poetry of Caesar and Brutus, non 
melius quam Cicero ^ sed felicius, quia illos fecisse pauciores 
sciunt, anticipates the author of the Annals, with his mastery 
of biting phrase and his unequalled power of innuendo. The 
defence and attack of the older oratpry are both dramatic, 
and to a certain extent unreal; it is probable that the 
dialogue does in fact represent the matter of actual dis- 
cussions between the two principal interlocutors, celebrated 
orators of the Flavian period, to which as a young student 
Tacitus had himself listened. One phrase dropped by 
Aper, the apologist of the modem school, is of special 
interest as coming from the future historian; among the 
faults of the Ciceronian oratory is mentioned a languor and 
heaviness in narration — tarda et iners structura in morem 
annalium. It is just this quality in historical composition 
that Tacitus set himself sedulously to conquer. By every 
artifice of style, by daring use of vivid words and elliptical 
constructions, by Studied avoidance of the old balance of 
the sentence, he established a new historical manner which, 
whatever may be its failings — and in the hands of any 
writer of less genius they become at once obvious and 
intolerable — never drops dead or says a thing in a certain 
way because it is the way in which the ordinary rules of 

2IO Latin Literature, [III. 

style would prescribe that it should be said. A comparison 
has often been drawn between Tacitus and Carlyle in this 
matter. It may easily be pressed too far, as in some rather 
grotesque attempts made to translate portions of the Latin 
author intd phrases chosen or copied from the modem; 
but there is enough likeness to give some colour even to 
these attempts. Both authors began by writing in the 
rather mechanical and commonplace style which was the 
current fashion during their youth; in both the evolution 
of the personal and inimitable manner from these earlier 
essays into the full perfection of the Annals and the French 
Revolution is a lesson in language of immense interest. 

The fifteen silent years of Tacitus followed the publi- 
cation of the dialogue on oratory. In the Agricola and 
Germania the distinctively Tacitean style is still immature, 
though it is well on the way towards maturity. The Germania 
is less read for its literary merit than as the principal extant 
account, and the only one which professes to cover the 
ground at all systematically, of Central Europe under the 
early Roman Empire. It does not appear whether, in 
the course of his official employments, Tacitus had ever 
been stationed on the frontier either of the Rhine or of the 
Danube. The treatise bears little or no traces of first- 
hand knowledge ; nor does he mention his authorities, with 
the single exception of a reference to Caesar's Gallic War, 
We can hardly doubt that he made free use of the material 
amassed by Pliny in his Bella Germaniae^ and it is quite 
possible that he really used few other sources. For the 
work, though full of information, is not critically written, 
and the historian constantly tends to pass into the moralist. 
The Ciceronian style has now completely worn away, but 
his manner is still as deeply rhetorical as ever. What he 
has in view throughout is to bring the vices of civilised 
luxury into stronger relief by a contrast with the idealised 
simplicity of the German tribes ; and though his knowledge 
and his candour alike make him stop short of falsifying 

III.] Tacitus. 21 J 

facts, his selection and disposition of facts is guided less by 
a historical than by an ethical purpose. His lucid and 
accurate description of the amber of the Baltic seems merely 
introduced to point a sarcastic reference to Roman luxury ; 
and the whole of the extremely valuable general account of 
the social life of the Western German tribes is drawn in 
implicit or expressed contrast to the elaborate social con- 
ventions of what he considers a corrupt and degenerate 
civilisation. The exaggeration of the sentiment is more 
marked than in any of his other writings ; thus the fine 
outburst, Nemo illic vitia ridet, nee corrumpere et corrumpi 
secuium vocatur^ concludes a passage in which he gravely 
suggests that the invention of writing is fatal to moral 
innocence ; and though he is candid enough to note the 
qualities of laziness and drunkenness which the Germans 
shared with other half-barbarous races, he glosses over the 
other quality common' to savages, want of feeling, with the 
sounding and grandiose commonplace, expressed in a 
phrase of characteristic force and brevity, feminis lugere 
honestum est, viris meminisse. 

The AgricoiUy perhaps the most beautiful piece of 
biography in ancient literature, stands on a much higher 
level than the Germania^ because here his heart was in the 
work. The rhetorical bent is now fully under control, 
while his mastery over " disposition " (to use the term of the 
schools), or what one might call the architectural quality of 
the book, could only have been gained by such large and 
deep study of the art of rhetoric as is inculcated by Quin- 
tihan. The Agricola has the stateliness, the ordered 
movement, of a funeral oration ; the peroration, as it might 
not unfairly be called, of the two concluding chapters, 
reaches the highest level of the grave Roman eloquence, 
and its language vibrates with a depth of feeling to which 
Lucretius and Virgil alone in their greatest passages offer a 
parallel in Latin. The sentence, with its subtle Virgilian 
echoes, in which he laments his own and his wife's absence 

212 Latin Literature. [III. 

from Agricola's death-bed — omnia sine duhioy optime paretic 
turn, adsidente amantissimit uxdre supetfu^e honori tuo ; 
paucioribus tamen lacrimis comploraius es^ etnovissitna in luce 
desideravtrunt aliquid oculi tut — shows a new and strange 
power in Latin. It is still the ancient language, but it 
anticipates in its cadences the language of the Vulgate and 
of the statelier mediaeval prose. 

Together with this remarkable power over new prose 
rhythms, Tacitus shows in the Agricola the complete mastery 
of mordant and unforgettable phrase which makes his 
mature writing so unique. Into three or four ordinary 
words he can put more concentrated meaning than any 
other author. The likeness and contrast between these 
brief phrases of his and the " half-lines ** of Virgil might 
repay a long study. They^ire alike in their simple language, 
which somehow or other is charged with the whole person- 
ality of the author ; but the personality itself is in the sharpest 
antithesis. The Virgilian phrases, with their grave pity, are 
5teeped in a golden softness that is just touched with a 
far-off trouble, a pathetic waver in the voice as if tears were 
not far below it. Those of Tacitus are charged with 
indignation instead of pity ; " like a jewel hung in ghastly 
oight," to use Shakespeare's memorable simile, or like the 
red and angry autumnal star in the Iliad, they quiver and 
bum. Phrases like the famous ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem 
appellant, or the felix opportunitate mortis, are the concen- 
trated utterance of a great but deeply embittered mind; 

In this spirit Tacitus set himself to narrate the history of 
the first century of the Empire. Under the settled equable 
government of Trajan, the reigns of the Julio-Claudian house 
rapidly became a legendary epoch, a region of prodigies 
and nightmares and Titanic crimes. Even at the time 
they happened many of the events of those years had thrown 
the imagination of their spectators into a fever. The strong 
taint of insanity in the Claudian blood seemed to have 
communicated itself to the world ruled over by that extra- 

III.] Tacitus, 213 

ordinary series of men, about whom there was something 
inhuman and supernatural. Most of them were publicly 
deified before their death. The Fortuna Urbis took in them 
successive and often monstrous incarnations. Augustus 
himself was supposed to have the gift of divination ; his 
foreknowledge overleapt the extinction of his own house, 
and foresaw, across a gap of fifty years, the brief reign of 
Galba. Caligula threw an arch of prodigious span over the 
Roman Forum, above the roofs of the basilica of Julius 
Caesar, that from his house on the Palatine he might cross 
more easily to sup with his brother^ Jupiter Capitolinus. 
Nero's death was for years regarded over half the Empire 
as incredible ; men waited in a frenzy of excited terror for 
the reappearance of the vanished Antichrist. Even the 
Flavian house was surrounded by much of the same super- 
natural atmosphere. The accession of Vespasian was 
signalised by his performing public miracles in Egypt; 
Domitian, when he directed that he should be formally 
addressed as Our Lord God by all who approached him, 
was merely settling rules for an established practise of court 
etiquette. In this thunderous unnatural air legends of all 
sorts sp^ng up right and left; foremost, and including 
nearly all the rest, the legend of the Empire itself, which 
(like that of the French Revolution) we are only now 
beginning to unravel. The modem school of historians 
find in authentic documents, written and unwritten, the 
story of a continuous and able administration of the Empire 
through all those years by the permanent officials, and 
traces of a continuous personal policy of the Emperors 
themselves sustaining that administration against the re- 
actionary tendencies of the Senate. Even the massacres of 
Nero and Domitian are held to have been probably dictated 
by imperious public necessity. The confidential advisers 
of the Emperors acted as a sort of Committee of Public 
Safety, silent and active, while the credit or obloquy was 
all heaped op ^ single person. It took three generations 

214 Latin Literature, [III. 

to carry the imperial system finally out of danger; but 
when this end was at last attained, the era of the Good 
Emperors succeeded as a matter of course; much as in 
France, the success of the Revolution once fairly secured, 
the moderate government of the Directory and Consulate 
quietly succeeded to the Terror and the Revolutionary 

Such is one view now taken of the early Roman Empire. 
Its weakness is that it explains too much. How or why, 
if the matter was really as simple as this, did the traditional 
legend of the Empire grow up and extinguish the real 
facts ? Is it possible that the malignant genius of a single 
historian should outweigh, not only perishable facts, but 
the large body of imperialist literature which extends from 
the great Augustans down to Statius and Quintilian? 
Even if we set aside Juvenal and Suetonius as a rhetorician 
and a gossipmonger, that only makes the weight Tacitus 
has to sustain more overwhelming. It is hardly possible 
to overrate the effect of a single work of great genius; 
but the more we study works of great genius the more 
certain does it appear that they are all founded on real, 
though it may be transcendental, truth. Systems, like 
persons, are to be known by their fruits. The Empire 
produced, as the flower of its culture and in the inner 
circle of its hierarchy, the type of men of whom Tacitus 
is the most eminent example; and- the indignant hatred 
it kindled in its children leaves it condemned before the 
judgment of history. 

The surviving fragments of the Annals and Histories 
leave three great pictures impressed upon the reader's 
mind : the personality of Tiberius, the court of Nero, and 
the whole fabric and machinery of empire in the year 
of the four Emperors. The lost history of the reigns of 
Caligula and Domitian would no doubt have added two 
other pictures as memorable and as dramatic, but cotdd 
hardly make any serious change in the main structure of 

III.] Tacitus. 215 

the imperial legend as it is successively presented in these 
three imposing scenes. 

The character and statesmanship of Tiberius is one of 
the most vexed problems in Roman history; and it is 
significant to observe how, in all the discussions about 
it, the question perpetually reverts to another — the view 
to be taken of the personality of the historian who wrote 
nearly a century after Tiberius' accession, and was not 
born till long after his death. In no part of his work 
does Tacitus use his great weapon, insinuation of motive, 
with such terrible effect. All the speeches or letters of 
the Emperor quoted by him, almost all the actions he 
records, are given with this malign sidelight upon them : 
that, in spite of it, we lose our respect for neither Emperor 
nor historian is strong evidence both of the genius of 
the latter and the real greatness of the former. The case 
of Germanicus Caesar is a cardinal instance. In the whole 
account of the relations of Tiberius to his nephew there 
is nothing in the mere facts as stated inconsistent with 
confidence and even with cordiality. Tiberius pronounces 
a long and stately eulogy on Germanicus in the senate 
for his suppression of the revolt of the German legions. 
He recalls him from the German frontier, where the 
Roman supremacy was now thoroughly re-established, and 
where the hot-headed young general was on the point 
of entangling himself in fresh and dangerous conquests, 
in order to place him in supreme command in the Eastern 
provinces; but first he allows him the splendid pageant 
of a Roman triumph, and gives an immense donative 
to the population of the capital in his nephew's name. 
Germanicus is sent to the East with mains imperium over 
the whole of the transmarine provinces, a position more 
splendid than any that Tiberius himself had held during 
the lifetime of Augustus, and one that almost raised him to 
the rank of a colleague in the Empire. Then Germanicus 
embroils himself hopelessly with his principal subordinate^ 

2i6 Latin Literature. [III. 

the imperial legate of Syria, and his illness and death 
at Antioch put an end to a situation which is rapidly 
becoming impossible. His remains are solemnly brought 
back to Rome, and honoured with a splendid funeral ; the 
proclamation of Tiberius fixing the termination of the 
public mourning is in its gravity and good sense one of 
the most striking documents in Roman history. But in 
Tacitus every word and action of Tiberius has its malignant 
interpretation or comment. He recalls Germanicus from 
the Rhine out of mingled jealousy and fear; he makes 
him viceroy of the East in order to carry out a diabolically 
elaborate scheme for bringmg about his destruction. The 
vague rumours of poison or magic that ran during his 
last illness among the excitable and grossly superstitious 
populace of Antioch are gravely recorded as ground for 
the worst suspicions. That dreadful woman, the elder 
Agrippina, had, even in her husband's lifetime, made herself 
intolerable by her pride and jealousy ; after her husband's 
death she seems to have become quite insane, and the 
recklessness of her tongue knew no bounds. To Tacitus 
all her ravings, collected from hearsay or preserved in 
the memoirs of her equally appalling daughter, the mother 
of Nero, represent serious historical documents; and the 
portrait of Tiberius is from first to last deeply influenced 
by, and indeed largely founded on, the testimony of a 

The three books and a half of the Annals which contain 
the principate of Nero are not occupied with the portrai- 
ture of a single great personality, nor are they full, like 
the earlier books, of scathing phrases and poisonous 
insinuations. The reign of Nero was, indeed, one which 
required little rhetorical artifice to present as something 
portentous. The external history of the Empire, till 
towards its close, was without remarkable incident. The 
wars on the Armenian frontier hardly affected the general 
quiet of the Empire ; the revolt of Britain was an isolated 

III.] Tacitus, 217 

occurrence, and soon put down. The German tribes, 
engaged in fierce internal conflicts, left the legions on 
the Rhine almost undisturbed. The provinces, though 
suffering under heavy taxation, were on the whole well 
ruled. Public interest was concentrated on the capital ; 
and the startling events which took place there gave the 
fullest scope to the dramatic genius of the historian. The 
court of Nero lives before us in his masterly delineation. 
Nero himself, Seneca and Tigellinus, the Empress-mother, 
the conspirators of the year 65, form a portrait-gallery 
of sombre magnificence, which surpasses in vivid power 
the more elaborate and artificial picture of the reign of 
Tiberius. With all his immense ability and his deep 
psychological insight, Tacitus is not a profound political 
thinker ; as he approaches the times which fell within his 
own personal knowledge he disentangles himself more and 
more from the preconceptions of narrow theory, and gives 
his dramatic gift fuller play. It is for this reason that 
the Histories^ dealing with a period which was wholly 
within his own lifetime, and many of the main actors in 
which he knew personally and intimately, are a greater 
historical work than even the Annals, He moves with a 
more certain step in an ampler field. The events of the 
year 69, which occupy almost the whole of the extant 
part of the Histories, offer the largest and most crowded 
canvas ever presented to a Roman historian. And Tacitus 
rises fully to the amplitude of his subject. It is in these 
books that the material greatness of the Empire has found 
its largest expression. In the Annals Rome is the core 
of the world, and the provinces stretch dimly away from 
it, shaken from time to time by wars or military revolts 
that hardly touch the great central life of the capital. 
Here, though the action opens indeed in the capital in that 
wet stormy January, the main interest is soon transferred 
to distant fields ; the life of the Empire still converges on 
Rome as a centre, but no longer issues firom it as ifrom 

2i8 Latin Literature, \jlvu 

a common heart and brain. The provinces had been the 
spoil of Rome ; Rome herself is now becoming the spoil 
of the provinces. The most splendid piece of narration 
in the Histories^ and one of the finest in the work of any 
historian, is the story of the second battle of Bedriacum, 
and the storm and sack of Cremona by the Moesian and 
Pannonian legions. This is the central thought which 
makes it so tragical. The little vivid touches in which 
Tacitus excels are used towards this purpose with ex- 
traordinary effect; as in the incident of the third legion 
saluting the rising sun — ita in Suria mos est — which brings 
before our imagination the new and fatal character of 
the great provincial armies^ or the casual words of the 
Flavian general. The bath will soon be hot enough^ which 
gave the signal for the burning of Cremona,. In these 
scenes the whole tragedy of the Empire rises before' us. 
The armies of the Danube and Rhine left the frontiers 
defenceless while they met in the shock of battle on 
Italian soil, still soaking with Roman blood and littered 
with unburied Roman corpses; behind them the whole 
armed strength of the Empire — immensa belli moles — was 
gathering out of Gaul, Spain, Syria, and Hungary; and 
before the year was out, the Roman Capitol itself, in a 
trifling struggle between small bodies of the opposing 
forces, went up in flame at the hands of the German troops 
of Vitellius. 

This great pageant of history is presented by Tacitus in 
a style which, in its sombre yet gorgeous colouring, is 
unique in literature. In mere grammatical mechanism it 
bears close affinity to the other Latin writing of the period, 
but in all its more intimate qualities it is peculiar to Tacitus 
alone; he founded his own style, and did not transmit 
it to any successor. The influence of Virgil over prose 
reaches in him its most marked degree. Direct transfer- 
ences of phrase are not infrequent ; and throughout, as one 
reads the Histories^ one is reminded of the Aeneid, not only 


III.'] Tacitus, 219 

by particular phrases, but by a more indefinable quality 
permeating the style. The narrative of the siege and firing 
of the Capitol, to take one striking instance, is plainly 
from the hand of a writer saturated with the movement 
and language of VirgiPs Sack of Troy, A modem historian 
might have quoted Virgil in a pote; with Tacitus the 
Virgilian reminiscences are interwoven with the whole 
structure of his narrative. The whole of the three fine 
chapters will repay minute comparison; but some of the 
more striking resemblances are worth noting as a study 
in language. Erigunt actem, says the historian, usque ad 
primas Capitolinae arcis fores , , , in tectum egressi saxis 
tegulisque Vitellianos obruebant . . , ni revolsas undique 
statuaSy decora maiorum, in ipso aditu obiecissent . . . vis 
propior atque acrior ingruebat . . . quam non Porsena dedita 
urbe neque GalU temerare potuissent . . . inrumpunt Vitelliani 
et cuncta sanguine ferro flammisque miscent. We seem to 
be present once more at that terrible night in Troy — 

Vestibulum ante ipsum primoque in limine Pyrrhus . . . 
Evado ad summi fastigia culminis . . . 

. . . turres ac tecta domorum 
Culmina convellunt ... 

. . . veterum decora alta parentutn 
Devolvunt . . . nee saxa, nee uilum 
Telorum interea cess at genus . . . 

. . . armorumque ingruit horror . . . 

, . , et iam per moenia clarior ignis 
Auditur^ propiusque aestus incendia volvunt . . . 
Quos neque Tydides^ nee Larissaeus Achilles ^ 
Non anni domuere decern, non milk carinae . . . 
Fit via vi; rumpunt aditu s primosque trucidant 
Inmissi Danai, et late loca milite compleni. 

These quotations indicate strikingly enough the way in 
which Tacitus is steeped in the Virgilian manner and 
diction. The whole passage must be read continuously to 

220 Latin Literature, pil. 

realise the immense skill with which he uses it, and the 
tragic height it adds to the narrative. 

Nor is the deep gloom of his history, though adorned 
with the utmost brilliance of rhetoric, lightened by any 
belief in Providence or any distinct hope for the future. 
The artificial optimism of the Stoics is alien from his whole 
temper; and his practical acquiescence in the existing 
system under the reign of Domitian only added bitterness 
to his inward revolt ifrom it. The phrases of religion are 
merely used by him to darken the shades of his narrative ; 
Deum ira in rem Romanam^ one of the most striking of 
them, might almost be taken as a second title for his 
history. On the very last page of the Annals he concludes a 
brief notice of the ruin and exile of Cassius Asclepiodotus, 
whose crime was that he had not deserted an imfortunate 
friend, with the striking words, " Such is the even-handed- 
ness of Heaven towards good and evil conduct." Even 
his praises of the government of Trajan are half-hearted 
and incredulous ; " the rare happiness of a time when men 
may think what they will, and say what they think," is to 
his mind a mere interlude, a brief lightening of the dark- 
ness before it once more descends on a world where the 
ambiguous power of fate or chance is the only permanent 
ruler, and where the gods intervene, not to protect, but only 
to avenge. 




From the name of Tacitus that of Juvenal is inseparable. 
The pictures drawn of the Empire by the historian and the 
satirist are in such striking accordance that they create 
a greater plausibility for the common view they hold than 
could be given by any single representation; and while 
Juvenal lends additional weight and colour to the Tacitean 
presentment of the imperial legend, he acquires from it 
in return an importance which could hardly otherwise have 
been sustained by his exaggerated and glaring rhetoric. 

As regards the life and personality of the last great 
Roman satirist we are in all but total ignorance. Several 
lives of him exist which are confused and contradictory in 
detail. He was bom at Aquinum, probably in the reign 
of Nero ; an inscription on a little temple of Ceres, dedi- 
cated by him there, indicates that he had served in the 
army as commander of a Dalmatian cohort, and was super- 
intendent (as one of the chief men of the town) of the 
civic worship paid to Vespasian after his deification. The 
circumstance of his banishment for offence given to an 
actor who was high in favour with the Emperor is well 
authenticated; but neither its place nor its time can be 
fixed. It appears from the Satires themselves that they 
were written late in life ; we are informed that he reached 
his eightieth year, and lived into the reign of Antoninus 


222 Latin Literature. [HI. 

Pius. Martial, by whom he is repeatedly mentioned, 
alludes to him only as a rhetorician, not as a satirist. 
The sixteen satires (of which the last is, perhaps, not 
genuine) were published at intervals under Trajan and 
Hadrian. They fall into two groups ; the first nine, which 
are at once the most powerful and the least agreeable, 
being separated by a considerable interval of years from the 
others, in which a certain softening of tone and a tendency 
to dwell on the praise of virtue more than on the ignoble 
details of vice is united with a failing power that marks 
the approach of senility. 

Juvenal is the most savage — one might almost say the 
most brutal — of all the Roman satirists. Lucilius, when 
he "scourged the town," did so in the high spirits and 
voluble diction of a comparatively simple age. Horace 
soon learned to drop the bitterness which appears in his 
earlier satires, and to make them the vehicle for his gentle 
wisdom and urbane humour. The writing of Persius was 
that of a student who gathered the types he satirised 
from books rather than from Hfe. Juvenal brought to his 
task not only a wide knowledge of the world — or, at least, 
of the world of the capital — but a singular power of 
mordant phrase, and a mastery over crude and vivid 
effect that keeps the reader suspended between disgust 
and admiration. In the commonplaces of morality, though 
often elevated and occasionally noble, he does not show 
any exceptional power or insight ; but his graphic realism, 
combined (as realism often is) with a total absence of all 
but the grimmest forms of humour, makes his verses cut 
like a knife. Facit indignatio versum, he truly says of his 
own work ; with far less flexibility, he has all the remorse- 
lessness of Swift. That singular product of the last da)rs 
of paganism, the epigrammatist Palladas of Alexandria, is 
the only ancient author who shows the same spirit. Of 
his earUer work the second and ninth satires, and a great 
part of the sixth, have a cold prurience and disgustingness 

IV.] Juvenal, 223 

of detail, that even Swift only approaches at his worst 
moments. Yet the sixth satire, at all events, is an undeni- 
able masterpiece ; however raw the colour, however exag- 
gerated the drawing, his pictures of Roman life have a 
force that stamps them permanently on the imagination; 
his Legend of Bad Women, as this satire might be called, 
has gone far to make history. 

It is in the third satire that his peculiar gift of vivid 
painting finds its best and easiest scope. In this elaborate 
indictment of the life of the capital, put into the mouth 
of a man who is leaving it for a little sleepy provincial 
town, he draws a picture of the Rome he knew, its social 
life and its physical features, its everyday sights and sounds, 
that brings it before us more clearly and sharply than even 
the Rome of Horace or Cicero. The drip of the water 
from the aqueduct that passed over the gate from which 
the dusty squalid Appian Way stretched through its long 
suburb; the garret under the tiles where, just as now, 
the pigeons sleeked themselves in the sun and the rain 
drummed on the roof; the narrow crowded streets, half 
choked with the builders* carts, ankle-deep in mud, and 
the pavement ringing under the heavy military boots of 
guardsmen ; the tavern waiters trotting along with a pyra- 
mid of hot dishes on their head; the flowerpots falling 
from high window ledges ; night, with the shuttered shops, 
the silence broken by some sudden street brawl, the dark- 
ness shaken by a flare of torches as some great man, 
wrapped in his scarlet cloak, passes along from a dinner- 
party with his long train of clients and slaves : these scenes 
live for us in Juvenal, and are perhaps the picture of 
ancient Rome that is most abidingly impressed on our 
memory. The substance of the satire is familiar to English 
readers from the fine copy of Johnson, whose London 
follows it closely, and is one of the ablest and most 
animated modem imitations of a classical original. The 
same author's noble poem on the Vanity of Human IVisIies 


224 Latin Literatute. [III. 

is a more free, but equally spirited rendering of the tenth 
satire, which stands at the head of the later portion of 
Juvenal's work. In this, and in those of the subsequent 
satires which do not show traces of declining power, notably 
the eleventh and thirteenth, the rhetoric is less gaudy 
and the thought rises to a nobler tone. The fine passage 
at the end of the tenth satire, where he points out what 
it is permitted mankind to pray for, and that in the thir- 
teenth, where he paints the torments of conscience in the 
unpunished sinner, have something in them which combines 
the lofty ardour of Lucretius with the subtle psychological 
insight of Horace, and to readers in all ages have been, 
as they still remain, a powerful influence over conduct. 
Equally elevated in tone, and with a temperate gravity 
peculiar to itself, is the part of the fourteenth satire which 
deals with the education of the young. We seem to hear 
once more in it the enlightened eloquence of Quintilian ; 
in the famous Maxima debeiur puero revereniia he sums up 
in a single memorable phrase the whol^ spirit of the 
instructor and the moralist. The allusions to childhood 
here and elsewhere show Juvenal on his most pleasing 
side ; his rhetorical vices had not infected the real simplicity 
of his nature, or his admiration for goodness and innocence. 
In his power over trenchant expression he rivals Tacitus 
himself. Some of his phrases, Hke the one just quoted, have 
obtained a world-wide currency, and even reached the 
crowning honour of habitual misquotation; his Hoc volo 
sic iubeo, his Mens sana in corpore sanOy his Quis custddict 
ipsos custodes ? are more familiar than all but the best-known 
lines of Virgil and Horace. But perhaps his most charac- 
teristic lines are rather those where his moral indignation 
breaks forth in a sort of splendid violence quite peculiar 
to himself; lines like — 

Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causes, 
or — 

Magnaque numinibus vota exaudita maHgnis, 

IV.] The Younger Pliny. 225 

in which the haughty Roman language is still used with 
unimpaired weight and magnificence. 

To pass from Juvenal to the other distinguished con- 
temporary of Tacitus, the younger Pliny, is like exchanging 
the steaming atmosphere and gorgeous colours of a hot- 
house for the commonplace trimness of a suburban garden. 
The nephew and adopted son of his celebrated uncle, Pliny 
had received from his earliest years the most elaborate 
training which ever fell to the lot of mediocrity. His 
uncle's death left him at the age of seventeen already a 
finished pedant. The story which he tells, with obvious 
self-satisfaction, of how he spent the awful night of the 
eruption of Vesuvius in making extracts from Livy for his 
commonplace book, sets the whole man before us. He 
became a successful pleader in the courts, and passed 
through the usual public offices up to the consulate. At 
the age of fi^fty he was imperial legate of Bithynia: the 
extant official correspondence between him and the Emperor 
during this governorship shows him still unchanged ; upright 
and conscientious, but irresolute, pedantic, and totally 
unable to think and act for himself in any unusual circum- 
stances. The contrast between Pliny's fidgety indecision 
and the quiet strength and inexhaustible patience of Trajan, 
though scarcely what Pliny meant to bring out, is the 
first and last impression conveyed to us by this curious 
correspondence. The nine books of his private letters, 
though prepared, and in many cases evidently written for 
publication, give a varied and interesting picture of the 
time. Here, too, the character of the writer in its virtues 
and its weakness is throughout unmistakeable. Pliny, the 
noble-minded citizen, — Pliny, the munificent patron, — Pliny, 
the eminent man of letters, — Pliny, the affectionate husband 
and humane master, — Pliny, the man of principle, is in his 
various phases the real subject of the whole collection. 
His opinions are alwa)rs just and elegant ; few writers can 
express truisms with greater fervour. The letters to Tacitus, 

226 Latin Literature, [III. 

with whom he was throughout life in close intimacy, are 
among the most interesting and the fullest of unintentional 
humour. Tacitus was the elder of the two; and Pliny, 
" when very young ** — the words are his own, — had chosen 
him as his model and sought to follow his fame. " There 
were then many writers of brilliant genius ; but you," he 
writes to Tacitus, " so strong was the affinity of our natures, 
seemed to me at once the easiest to imitate and the most 
worthy of imitation. Now we are named together ; both 
of us have, I may say, some name in literature, for, as 
I include myself, I must be moderate in my praise of 
you." This to the author who had already published the 
Histories! Before so exquisite a self- revelation criticism 
itself is silenced. 

The cult of Ciceronianism established by Quintilian is 
the real origin of the collection of Pliny's Letters, Cicero 
and Pliny had many weaknesses and some virtues in 
common, and the desire of emulating Cicero, which Pliny 
openly and repeatedly expresses, had a considerable effect 
in exaggerating his weaknesses. Cicero was vain, quick- 
tempered, excitable; his sensibilities were easily moved, 
and found naturd and copious expression in the language 
of which he was a consummate master. Pliny, the most 
steady-going of mankind, sets himself to imitate this ex- 
citable temperament with the utmost seriousness ; he culti- 
vates sensibility, he even cultivates vanity. His elaborate 
and graceful descriptions of scenery — the fountain of Cli- 
tumnus or the villa overlooking the Tiber valley — are no 
more consciously insincere than his tears over the death 
of friends, or the urgency with which he begs his wife 
to write to him from the country twice a day. But these 
fine feelings are meant primarily to impress the public ; 
and a public which could be impressed by the spectacle 
of a man giving a dinner-party, and actually letting his 
untitled guests drink the same wine that was being drunk at 
the head of the table, put little check upon lapses of taste. 

IV.] The Younger Pliny, 227 

Yet with all his affectations and fatuities, Pliny compels 
respect, and even a measure of admiration, by the real 
goodness of his character. Where a good life is lived, it 
hardly becomes us to be too critical of motives and springs 
of action ; and in Pliny's case the practice of domestic and 
civic virtue was accompanied by a considerable literary 
gift. Had we a picture drawn with equal copiousness and 
grace of the Rome of Marcus Aurelius half a century later, 
it would be a priceless addition to history. Pliny's world — 
partly because it is presented with such rich detail — reminds 
us, more than that of any other period of Roman history, 
of the society of our own day. To pass from Cicero's letters 
to his is curiously like passing from the eighteenth to the 
nineteenth century. In other respects, indeed, they have 
what might be called an eighteenth century flavour. Some 
of the more elaborate of them would fall quite naturally 
into place among the essays of the Spectator or the Rambler; 
in many others the combination of thin and lucid common- 
sense with a vein of calculated sensibility can hardly be 
paralleled till we reach the age of Rousseau. 
. Part of this real or assumed sensibility was the interest in 
scenery and the beauties of nature, which in Pliny, as in the 
eighteenth century authors, is cultivated for its own sake as 
an element in self-culture. In the words with which he 
winds up one of the most elaborate of his descriptive pieces, 
that on the lake of Vadimo in Tuscany — Me nihil aeque ac 
naturae opera delectant — there is an accent which hardly 
recurs till the age of the Seasons and of Gray's Letters, 
Like Gray, Pliny took a keen pleasure in exploring the 
more romantic districts of his country ; his description of 
the lake in the letter just mentioned is curiously like 
passages from the journal in which Gray records his 
discovery — for it was little less — of Thirlmere and Der- 
wentwater. He views the Clitumnus with the eye of an 
accomplished landscape-gardener; he notes the cypresses 
on the hill, the ash and poplar groves by the water's edge ; 

228 Latin Literature. [III. 

he counts the shining pebbles under the clear ice-cold 
water, and watches the green reflections of the overhanging 
trees; and finally, as Thomson or Cowper might have 
done, mentions the abundance of comfortable villas as the 
last charm of the landscape. 

The munificent benefactions of Pliny to his native town 
of Comum, and his anxiety that, instead of sending its most 
promising boys to study at Milan — only thirty miles off — it 
should provide for them at home what would now be called 
a university education, are among the many indications 
which show us how Rome was diffusing itself over Italy, 
as Italy was over the Latin-speaking provinces. Under 
Hadrian and the Antonines this process went on with even 
growing force. Country Ufe, or that mixture of t#wn and 
country life afforded by the small provincial towns, came 
to be more and more of a fashion, and the depopulation of 
the capital had made insensible progress long before the 
period of renewed anarchy that followed the assassination 
of Commodus. Whether the rapid decay of Latin 
literature which took place after the death of Pliny and 
Tacitus was connected with this weakening of the central 
life of Rome, is a question to which we hardly can hazard 
a definite answer. Under the three reigns which succeeded 
that of Trajan, a period of sixty-four years of internal peace, 
of beneficent rule, of enlightened and humane legislation, 
the cultured society shown to us in Pliny's Letters as diffused 
all over Italy remained strangely silent. Of all the streams 
of tradition which descended on this age, the schools of 
law and grammar alone kept their course ; the rest dwindle 
away and disappear. Sixty years pass without a single 
poet or historian, even of the second rate ; one or two 
eminent jurists share the field with one or two incon- 
siderable extract-makers and epitomators, who barely rise 
out of the common herd of undistinguished grammarians. 
Among the obscure poets mentioned by Pliny, the name of 
Vergilius Romanus may excite a momentary curiosity ; he 

IV<f Suetonius, 229 

wai the author of Terentian comedies, which probably did 
not long survive the private recitations for which they 
were composed. The epitome of the History of Pompeius 
Trogus, made by the otherwise unknown Marcus Junianus 
Justinus, has been already mentioned; like the brief and 
poorly executed abridgment of Livy by Julius or Lucius 
Annaeus^ Florus (one of the common text-books of the 
Middle Ages), it is probably to be placed under Hadrian. 
Javolenus Priscus, a copious and highly esteemed juridical 
writer, and head of one of the two great schools of Roman 
jurisprudence, is best remembered by the story of his witty 
interruption at a public recitation, which Pliny, (part of 
whose character it was to joke with difficulty) tells with a 
scandalised gravity even more amusing than the story itself. 
His successor as head of the school, Salvius Julianus, was 
of equal juristic distinction ; his codification of praetorian 
law received imperial sanction from Hadrian, and became 
the authorised civil code. He was one of the instructors of 
Marcus Aurelius. The wealth he acquired by his profession 
was destined, in the strange revolutions of human affairs, 
to be the purchase-money of the Empire for his great- 
grandson, Didius Julianus, when it was set up at auction by 
the praetorian guards. More eminent as u man of letters 
than either of these is their contemporary Gains, whose 
Institutes of Civil Law, published at the beginning of the 
reign of Marcus Aurelius, have ever since remained one of 
the foremost manuals of Roman jurisprudence. 

But the literary poverty of this age in Latin writing is 
most strikingly indicated by merely naming its principal 
author. At any previous period the name of Gains Suetonius 
Tranquillus would have been low down in the second rank : 
here it rises to the first ; nor is there any other name which 
fairly equals his, either in importance or in interest. The 
son of an officer of the thirteenth legion, Suetonius practised 
in early life as an advocate, subsequently became one of 
Hadrian's private secretaries, and devoted his later years to 

230 Latin Literature, [III. 

literary research and compilation, somewhat in the manner, 
though without the encyclopedic scope, of Varro. In his 
youth he had been an intimate friend of the younger Pliny, 
who speaks in high terms of his learning and integrity. 
The greater part of his voluminous writings are lost ; they 
included many works on grammar, rhetoric, and archae- 
ology, and several on natural -history and physical science. 
Fragments survive of his elaborate treatise J^e Viris 
Illustrtbus, an exhaustive history of Latin literature up to 
his own day : excerpts made from it by St. Jerome in his 
Chronicle are the source from which much of our informa- 
tion as to Latin authors is derived, and several complete 
lives have been prefixed to manuscripts of the works of the 
respective authors, and thus independently preserved. 
But his most interesting, and probably his most valuable 
work, the Lives of the Twelve Caesars^ has made him 
one of the most widely known of the later classical 
writers. It was published under Hadrian in the year 
120, and dedicated to his praetorian prefect, Septicius 
Clams. Tacitus (perhaps because he was still alive) is 
never mentioned, and not certainly made use of. Both 
authors had access, in the main, to the same materials ; but 
the confidential position of Suetonius as Hadrian's secretary 
no doubt increased his natural tendency to collect stories 
and preserve all sorts of trivial or scandalous gossip, rather 
than make any attempt to write serious history. It is just 
this, however, which gives unique interest and value to the 
Lives of the Caesars, We can spare political insight or 
consecutive arrangement in an author who is so lavish in 
the personal detail that makes much of the life of history : 
who tells us the colour of Caesar's eyes, who quotes from 
a dozen private letters of Augustus, who shows us Caligula 
shouting to the moon from his palace roof, and Nero 
lecturing on the construction of the organ. There perhaps 
never was a series of biographies so crammed with anecdote. 
Nor is the style without a certain sort of merits from its 

IV.] Aulus Gellius. 231 

entire and unaffected simplicity. After all the fine writing 
of the previous century it is, for a little while, almost a 
relief to come on an author who is frankly without style, 
and says what he has to say straightforwardly. But it if5 
only the absorbing interest of the matter which makes this 
kind of writing long endurable. It is, in truth, the beginning 
of barbarism ; and Suetonius measures more than half the 
distance from the fine familiar prose of the Golden Age to 
the base jargon of the authors of the Augustan History a 
century and a half later, under Diocletian. 

Amid the decay of imagination and of the higher qualities 
of style, the tradition of industry and accuracy to some 
degree survived. The biographies of Suetonius show con- 
siderable research and absolute candour; and the same 
qualities, though united with a feebler judgment, appear in 
the interesting miscellanies of his younger contemporary, 
Aulus Gellius. This work, published under the fanciful 
title of Noctes Atticae^ is valuable at once as a collection 
of extracts from older writers and as a source of information 
regarding the knowledge and studies of his own age. Few 
authors are more scrupulously accurate in quotation ; and 
by this conscientiousness, as well as by his real admiration 
for the great writers, he shows the pedantry of the time on 
its most pleasing side. 

The twenty books of the Noctes Atticae were the compi- 
lation of many years ; but the title was chosen from the fact 
of the work having been begun during a winter spent by 
the author at Athens, when about thirty years of age. He 
was only one among a number of his countrymen, old as 
well as young, who found the atmosphere of that university 
town more congenial to study than the noisy, unhealthy, 
and crowded capital, or than the quiet, but ill-equipped, 
provincial towns of Italy. Athens once more became, for 
a short time, the chief centre of European culture. Herodes 
Atticus, that remarkable figure who traced his descent to 
the very beginnings of Athenian history and the semi- 

232 Latin Literature, [III. 

mythical Aeacidae of Aegina, and who was consul of Rome 
under Antoninus Pius, had taken up his permanent residence 
in his native town, and devoted his vast wealth to the 
architectural embellishment of Athens, and to a munificent 
patronage of letters. Plutarch and Arrian, the two most 
eminent authors of the age, both spent much of their time 
there; and the Emperor Hadrian, by his repeated and 
protracted visits — he once lived at Athens for three years 
together — established the reputation of the city as a fashion- 
able resort, and superintended the building of an entirely 
new quarter to accommodate the great influx of permanent 
residents. The accident of imperial patronage doubtless 
added force to the other causes which made Greek take 
fresh growth, and become for a time almost the dominant 
language of the Empire. Though two centuries were still 
to pass before the foundation of Constantinople, the centre 
of gravity of the huge fabric of government was already 
passing from Italy to the Balkan peninsula, and Italy 
itself was becoming slowly but surely one of the Western 
provinces. Nature herself seemed to have fixed the Eastern 
limit of the Latin language at the Adriatic, and even in 
Italy Greek was equally familiar with Latin to the educated 
classes. Suetonius, Fronto, Hadrian himself, wrote in 
Latin and Greek indifferently. Marcus Aurelius used Greek 
by preference, even when writing of his predecessors and 
the events of Roman history. From Plutarch to Lucian 
the Greek authors completely predominate over the Latin. 
In the sombre century which followed, both Greek and 
Latin literature were all but extinguished; the partial 
revival of the latter in the fourth century was artificial and 
short-lived ; and though the tradition of the classical manner 
took long to die away, the classical writers themselves 
completely cease with Suetonius. A new Latin, that of the 
Middle Ages, was already rising to take the place of 
the speech handed down by the Republic to the Empire. 


V V-'  


Though the partial renascence in art and letters which 
took place in the long peaceful reign of Hadrian was on the 
whole a Greek, or, at all events, a Graeco-Roman movement, 
an attempt at least towards a corresponding movement in 
purely Latin literature, both in prose and verse, was made 
about the same time, and might have had important results 
had outward circumstances allowed it a reasonable chance 
of development. As it is, Apuleius and Fronto in prose, 
and the new school of poets, of whom the unknown author 
of the Pervigilium Veneris is the most striking and typical, 
represent not merely a fresh refinement in the artificial 
management of thought and language, but the appearance 
on the surface of certain native qualities in Latin, long 
suppressed by the decisive supremacy of the manner 
established as classical under the Republic, but throughout 
latent in the structure and temperament of the language. 
Just when Latin seemed to be giving way on all hands to 
Greek, the signs are first seen of a much more momentous 
change, the rise of a new Latin, which not only became 
a common speech for all Europe, but was the ground- 
work of the Romance languages and of half a dozen 
important national literatures. The decay of education, 
the growth of vulgarisms, and the degradation of the 
fine, but extremely artificial, literary language of the 
classical period, went hand in hand towards this change 


234 Latin Literature. [III. 

with the extreme subtleties and refinements introduced by 
the ablest of the new writers, who were no longer content, 
like Quintilian and Pliny, to rest satisfied with the manner 
and diction of the Golden Age. The work of this school 
of authors is therefore of unusual interest; for they may 
not unreasonably be called a school, as working, though 
unconsciously, from different directions towards the same 
common end. 

The theory of this new manner has had considerable 
Ught thrown upon it by the fragments of the works of 
Marcus Cornelius Fronto, recovered early in the present 
century by Angelo Mai from palimpsests in the Vatican 
and Ambrosian libraries at Rome and Milan. Fronto was 
the most celebrated rhetorician of his time, and exercised 
a commanding influence on literary criticism. The reign 
of the Spanish school was now over ; Fronto was of African 
origin ; and though it does not follow that he was not of 
pure Roman blood, the influence of a semi-tropical atmos- 
phere and Afirican surroundings altered the t)rpe, and 
produced a new strain, which we can trace later under 
different forms in the great African school of ecclesiastical 
writers headed by TertuUian and C)rprian, and even to a 
modified degree in Augustine himself. He was bom in 
the Roman colony of Cirta, probably a few years after the 
death of Quintilian. He rose to a conspicuous position at 
Rome under Hadrian, and was highly esteemed by Marcus 
Antoninus, who not only elevated him to the consulship, 
but made him one of the principal tutors of the joint-heirs 
to the Empire, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. He 
died a few years before Marcus Aurelius. The recovered 
fragments of his writings, which are lamentably scanty and 
interrupted, are chiefly from his correspondence with his 
two imperial pupils. With both of them, and Marcus 
Aurelius especially, he continued in later years to be on 
the most intimate and affectionate relations. The elderly 
rhetorician, a martyr, as he keeps complaining, to gout, and 

v.] Fronto. 235 

the philosophic Emperor write to each other with the 
effusiveness of two school-girls. It is impossible to suspect 
Marcus Aurelius of insincerity, and it is easy to understand 
what a real fervour of admiration his saintly character might 
awaken in any one who had the privilege of watching and 
aiding its development ; but the endearments exchanged in 
the letters that pass between " my dearest master " and 
" my life and lord " are such as modern taste finds it hard 
to sympathise with, or even to understand. 

The single cause for complaint that Fronto had against 
his pupil was that, as he advanced in life, he gradually 
withdrew from the study of literature to that of philosophy. 
To Fronto, hterature was the one really important thing in 
the world; and in his perpetual recurrence to this theme, 
he finds occasion to lay down in much detail his own 
literary theories and his canons of style. The Elocuiio 
Novella^ which he considered it his great work in life to 
expound and to practise, was partly a return upon the 
style of the older Latin authors, partly a new growth 
based, as theirs had been, on the actual language of 
common life. The prose of Cato and the Gracchi had 
been, in vocabulary and structure, the living spoken 
language of the streets and farms, wrought into shape 
in the hands of men of powerful genius. To give fresh 
vitality to Latin, Fronto saw, and saw rightly, that the 
same process of literary genius working on living material 
must once more take place. His mistake was in fancy- 
ing it possible to go back again to the second century 
before Christ, arid make a fresh start from that point as 
though nothing had happened in the meantime. In our 
own age we have seen a somewhat similar fallacy committed 
by writers who, in their admiration of the richness and 
flexibihty of Elizabethan English, have tried to write with 
the same copiousness of vocabulary and the same freedom 
of structure as the Elizabethans. Between these and their 
object lies an insuperable barrier, the formed and finished 



236 Latin Literature, [III. 

prose of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ; between 
Fronto and his lay the whole mass of what, in the sustained 
and secure judgment of mankind, is the classical prose 
of the Latin language, from Cicero to Tacitus. In the 
simplicity which he pursued there was something ineradi- 
cably artificial, and even unnatural, and the fresh resources 
from which he attempted to enrich the literary language 
and to form his new Latin resembled, to use his own 
striking simile, the exhausted and unwilling population from 
which the legions could only now be recruited by the most 
drastic conscription. 

Yet if Fronto hardly succeeded in founding a new Latin, 
he was a powerful influence in the final collapse and dis- 
appearance of the old. His reversion to the style and 
language of pre-Ciceronian times was only a temporary 
fashion ; but in the general decay of taste and learning it 
was sufficient to break the continuity of Latin literature. 
The bronze age of Ennius and Cato had been succeeded, 
in a broad and stately development, by the Golden and 
Silver periods. Under this fresh attack the Latin of the 
Silver Age breaks up and goes to pieces, and the failure of 
Fronto and his contemporaries to create a new language 
opens the age of the base metals. The collapse of the 
imperial system after the death of Marcus Aurelius is not 
more striking or more complete than the collapse of litera- 
ture after that of his tutor. 

Of the actual literary achievement of this remarkable 
critic, when he turned from criticism and took to construc- 
tion, the surviving fragments give but an imperfect idea. 
Most of the fragments are from private letters ; the rest are 
from rhetorical exercises, including those of the so-called 
Principia Historiae, a panegyric upon the campaigns and 
administration of Verus in the Asiatic provinces. But among 
the letters there are some of a more studied eloquence, 
which show pretty clearly the merits and defects of their 
author as a writer. In narrative he is below mediocrity : 

v.] Front o. 237 

his attempt to tell the story of the ring of Polycrates, after 
all allowance is made for its having been first told by 
Herodotus, is incredibly languid and tedious. Where his 
style reaches its highest level of force and refinement is 
in the more imaginative passages, and in the occasional 
general reflections where he makes the thought remarkable 
by a cadence of language that is at once unexpected and 
inevitable. Novissimum homini sapientiam colenti amiculum 
estgloriae cupido : id novissimum exuitir — the turn of phrase 
here is completely different from the way in which Cicero 
or Quintilian would have expressed the same idea. In 
the long letter urging the Emperor to take a brief rest 
from the wearing cares of government during a few days 
that he was spending at a little seaside town in Etruria, 
there occurs what is, perhaps, the most characteristic single 
passage that could be quoted, the allegory of the Creatioi) 
of Sleep. " Now," he writes, " if you would like to hear a 
little fable, listen." The fable which he proceeds to relate, 
in its delicacy of phrasing and its curiously romantic flavour, 
has received an admirable and sympathetic rendering from 
the late Mr. Pater.* Part of his version — the passage is 
too long to quote in full — will show more clearly than 
abstract criticism the distinctively romantic or mediaeval 
note which, except in so far as it had been anticipated by 
the genius of Plato and Virgil, appears now in literature 
almost for the first time. 

" They say that our father Jupiter, when he ordered the ' 
world at the beginning, divided time into two parts exactly 
equal ; the one part he clothed with light, the other with 
darkness ; he called them Day and Night ; and he assigned 
rest to the night and to the day the work of Hfe. At that 
time Sleep was not yet bom, and men passed the whole of 
their lives awake : only, the quiet of the night was ordained 
for them, instead of sleep. But it came to pass, little by 
little, being that the minds of men are restless, that they 

.  Marius the Epicurean^ chap, xiii 


238 Lati7i Literature, [III. 

carried on their business alike by night as by day, and gave 
no part at all to repose. . . . Then it was that Jupiter formed 
the design of creating Sleep; and he added him to the 
number of the gods, and gave him the charge over night and 
rest, putting into his hands the keys of human eyes. With 
his own hands he mingled the juices wherewith Sleep should 
soothe the hearts of mortals — herb of Enjoyment and herb 
of Safety, gathered from a grove in Heaven ; and, from the 
meadows of Acheron, the herb of Death ; expressing from 
it one single drop only, no bigger than a tear that one 
might hide. 'With this juice,* he said, ' pour slumber upon 
the eyelids of mortals. So soon as it hath touched them 
they will lay themselves down motionless, under thy power. 
But be not afraid : they will revive, and in a while stand 
up again upon their feet.' After that, Jupiter gave wings to 
Sleep, attached, not to his heels like Mercury's, but to his 
shoulders like the wings of Love. For he said, * It becomes 
thee not to approach men's eyes as with the noise of a 
chariot and the rushing of a swift courser, but with placid 
and merciful flight, as upon the wings of a swallow — nay ! 
not so much as with the fluttering of a dove.' " 

Alike in the naive and almost childlike simplicity of its 
general structure, and in its minute and intricate ornament, 
like that of a diapered wall or a figured tapestry, where 
hardly an inch of space is ever left blank — this new style is 
much more akin to the manner of the thirteenth or four- 
teenth century than to the classical. A similar quality is 
shown, not more strikingly, but on a larger scale and with a 
more certain touch, in the celebrated prose romance of 
Fronto's contemporary, Lucius Apuleius. 

Like Fronto, Apuleius was of African origin. He was 
born at the Roman colony of Madaura in Numidia, and 
educated at Carthage, from which he proceeded afterwards 
to the university of Athens. The epithets of semi-Numida 
and semi-GaetuluSy which he applies to himself, indicate 
that he fully felt himself to belong to a civilisation which 

v.] Apuleius, 239 

was not purely European. Together with the Graeco-Syrian 
Lucian, this Romano-African represents the last extension' 
which ancient' culture took before finally fading away or 
becoming absorbed in new forms. Both were by profession 
travelling lecturers ; they were the nearest approach which 
the ancient world made to what we should now call the 
higher class of journalist. Lucian, in his later life — like a 
journalist nowadays who should enter Parliament — com- 
bined his profession with high public employment; but 
Apuleius, so far as is known, spent all his life in writing and 
lecturing. Though he was not strictly either an orator or a 
philosopher, his works include both speeches and philosoph- 
ical treatises ; but his chief distinction and his permanent 
interest are as a novelist both in the literal aftd in the 
accepted sense of the word — a writer of prose romances in 
which he carried the novella elocutio to the highest point it 
reached. He was bom about the year 125 ; the Meta- 
tnorphoseSy his most famous and his only extant romance, 
was written at Rome before he was thirty, soon after he 
had completed his course of study at Athens. The philo- 
sophical or mystical treatises of his later life. On the 
Universe, On the God of Socrates , On Plato and his Doctrine, 
do not rise above the ordinary level of the Neo-Platonist 
school, Platonism half understood, mixed with fanciful 
Orientalism, and enveloped in a maze of verbiage. That 
known as the Apologia, an elaborate literary amplification 
of the defence which he had to make before the proconsul 
of Africa against an accusation of dealing in magic, is the 
only one which survives of his oratorical works; and his 
miscellaneous writings on many branches of science and 
natural history, which are conjectured to have formed a sort 
of encyclopedia like those of Celsus and Pliny, are all but 
completely lost: but the Florida, a collection, probably 
made by himself, of twenty-four selected passages from the 
public lectures which he delivered at Carthage, give an idea 
of his style as a lecturer, and of the scope and variety of 

240 Latin Literature. [IIL 

his talent. The Ciceronian manner of Quintilian and his 
school has now completely disappeared. The new style 
may remind one here and there of Seneca, but the re- 
semblance does not go far. Fronto, who speaks of Cicero 
with grudging ,and lukewarm praise, regards Seneca as on 
the whole the most corrupt among Roman writers, and 
Apuleius probably held the same view. He produces his 
rhetorical effects, not by daring tropes or accumulations of 
sonorous phrases, but by a perpetual refinement of diction 
which keeps curiously weighing and rejecting words, and 
giving every other word an altered value or an unaccustomed 
setting. The effect is like that of strange and rather 
barbarous jewellery. A remarkable passage, on the power 
of sight possessed by the eagle, may be cit^d as a charac- 
teristic specimen of his more elaborate manner. Quum 
se nubiutn tenus altissime sublimavit^ he writes, evecta alis 
totum istud spatium^ qua pluitur et ningitur, ultra quod 
cacumen nee fulmini nee fulguri locus est^ in ipso, ut ita 
dixerim, solo aetheris et fastigio hiemis . . . nutu clementi 
laevorsum vel dextrorsum tota mole corporis labitur . . . inde 
cuncta despicienSy ibidem pinnarum eminus indefesso remigio^ 
ac paulisper cunctabundo volatu paene eodemloco pendula cir- 
cumtuetur et quaerit quorsus potissimum inpraedam supemese 
proruat fulminis vicey de ca^lo improvisa simul campis pecua^ 
simul montibus feraSy simul urbibus homines y uno obtutu sub 
eodem impetu cemens. The first thing that strikes a reader 
accustomed to classical Latin in a passage Uke this is the 
short broken rhythms, the simple organism of archaic prose 
being artificially imitated by carefully and deliberately 
breaking up all the structure which the language had 
been wrought into through the handling of centuries. The 
next thing is that half the phrases are, in the ordinary sense 
of the word, barely Latin. Apuleius has all the daring, 
though not the genius, of Virgil himself in inventing new 
Latin or using old Latin in new senses. But Virgil is old 
Latin to him no less than Ennius or Pacuvius ; in this very 

v.] Apuleius. 241 

passage, with its elaborate archaisms, there are three phrases 
taken directly from the first book of the Aeneid. 

In the Metamorphoses the elaboration of the new style 
culminates. In its main substance this curious and fantastic 
romance is a translation from a Greek original. Its precise 
relation to the version of the same story, extant in Greek 
under the name of Lucian, has given rise to much argu- 
ment, and the question cannot be held to be conclusively 
settled ; but the theory which seems to have most in its 
favour is that both are versions of a lost Greek original. 
Lucian applied his limpid style and his uncommon power 
of narration to rewrite what was no doubt a ruder and 
more confused story. Apuleius evidently took the story as 
a mere groundwork which he might overlay with his own 
fantastic embroidery. He was probably attracted to it by 
the supernatural element, which would appeal strongly to 
him, not merely as a professed mystic and a dabbler in 
magic, but as a decadent whose art sought out strange ex- 
periences and romantic passions no less than novel rhythms 
and exotic diction. Under the light touch of Lucian the 
supematuralism of the story is merely that of a fairy-tale, 
not believed in or meant to be believed; in the Meta- 
morphoses a brooding sense of magic is over the whole 
narrative. In this spirit he entirely remodels the conclusion 
of the story. The whole of the eleventh book, from the 
vision of the goddess, with which it opens, to the reception 
of the hero at the conclusion into the fellowship of her 
holy servants, is conceived at the utmost tension of mystical 
feeling. " With stars and sea-winds in her raiment," flower- 
crowned, shod with victorious palm, clad, under the dark 
splendours of her heavy pall, in shimmering white silk shot 
with saflron and rose like flame, an awful figure rises out 
of the moonlit sea: En adsum, comes her voice, rerum 
natura parens^ elementorum omnium domina, seculorum 
progenies initialis, summa numinum, regina manium, prima 
caelitumy deorum dearumque fades uni/ormis, quae caeU 


2/^2 Latin Literature. [III. 

luminosa culmina, maris salubria flamina^ inferorum de- 
plorata silentia nuHbus meis dispenso. It was in virtue of 
such passages as that from which these words are quoted 
that Apuleius came to be regarded soon after his death as 
an incarnation of Antichrist, sent to perplex the worshippers 
of the true God. Already to Lactantius he is not a curious 
artist in language, but a magician inspired by diabolical 
agency; St. Augustine tells us that, like ApoUonius of 
Tyana, he was set up by religious paganism as a rival to 
Jesus Christ. 

Of the new elements interwoven by Apuleius in the story 
of the transformations and adventures of Lucius of Patrae 
(Lucius of Madaura, he calls him, thus hinting, to the 
mingled awe and confusion of his readers, that the events 
had happened to himself), the fervid religion of the con- 
clusion is no doubt historically the most important; but 
that which made it universal and immortal is the famous 
story of Cupid and Psyche^ which fills nearly two books of 
the Metamorphoses, With the strangeness characteristic 
of the whole work, this wonderful and exquisitely told story 
is put in the mouth of a half crazy and drunken old woman, 
in the robbers* cave where part of the action passes. But 
her first half-dozen words, the errant in ' quadam civitate rex 
et regina, lift it in a moment into the golden world of pure 
romance. The story itself is in its constituent elements a 
well-known specimen of the Ihdrcheny or popular tale, which 
is not only current throughout the Aryan peoples, but may 
be traced in the popular mythology of all primitive races. 
It is beyond doubt in its essential features of immemorial 
antiquity ; but what is unique about it is its sudden appear- 
ance in literature in the full flower of its most elaborate 
perfection. Before Apuleius there is no trace of the story 
in Greek or Roman writing; he tells it with a daintiness 
of touch and a wealth of fanciful ornament that have left 
later story-tellers little or nothing to add. The version by 
which it is best known to modern readers, that in the 

v.] The Pervigilium Veneris. 243 

Earthly Paradise^ while, after the modem poet's manner, 
expanding the descriptions for their own sake, follows 
Apuleius otherwise with exact fidelity. 

In the more highly wrought episodes, like the Cupid and 
Psyche^ the new Latin of Apuleius often approximates 
nearly to assonant or rhymed verse. Both rhyme and 
assonance were to be found in the early Latin which he 
had studied deeply, and may be judged from incidental 
fragments of the popular language never to have wholly 
disappeared from common use during the classical period. 
Virgil, in his latest work, as has been noticed, shows a 
tendency to experiment in combining their use with that 
of the Graeco-Latin rhythms. The combination, in the 
writing of the new school, of a sort of inchoate verse with 
an elaborate and even pedantic prose was too artificial to 
be permanent; but about the same time attempts were 
made at a corresponding new style in regular poetry. 
Rhymed verse as such does not appear till later ; the work 
of the novelli poetae, as they were called by the grammarians, 
partly took the form of reversion to the trochaic metres 
which were the natural cadence of the Latin language, 
partly of fresh experiments in hitherto untried metres, in 
both cases with a large employment of assonance, and the 
beginnings of an accentual as opposed to a quantitative 
treatment. Of these experiments few have survived; the 
most interesting is a poem of remarkable beauty preserved 
in the Latin Anthology under the name of the Pervigilium 
Veneris, Its author is unknown, nor can its date be de- 
termined with certainty. The worship of Venus Genetrix, 
for whose spring festival the poem is written, had been 
revived on a magnificent scale by Hadrian ; and this fact, 
together with the internal evidence of the language, make it 
assignable with high probability to the age of the Antonines. 
The use of the preposition de^ almost as in the Romance 
languages, where case-inflexions would be employed in 
classical Latin, has been held to argue an African origin; 

244 Latin Literature. [III. 

while its remarkable mediaevalisms have led some critics, 
against all the other indications, to place its date as )fi^^^ 
the fourth or even the fifth century. ^ 

The Pervigilium Veneris is written in the trochaic septe- 
narian verse which had been fi-eely used by the earliest 
Roman poets, but had since almost dropped out of literary 
use. With the revival of the trochaic movement the long 
divorce between metrical stress and spoken accent begins 
to break down. The metre is indeed accurate, and even 
rigorous, in its quantitative structure; but instead of the 
prose and verse stresses regularly clashing as they do in 
the hexameter or elegiac, they tend broadly towards coin- 
ciding, and do entirely coincide in one-third of the Unes of 
the poem. We are on the very verge of the accentual 
Latin poetry of the Middle Ages, and the affinity is made 
closer by the free use of initial and terminal assonances, 
and even of occasional rhyme. The use of stanzas with 
a recurring refrain was not unexampled ; Virgil, following 
Theocritus and Catullus, had employed the device with 
singular beauty in the eighth Eclogue; but this is the first 
known instance of the refrain being added to a poem in 
stanzas of a fixed and equal length ;  it is more than half- 
way towards the structure of an eleventh-century Provencal 
alba. The keen additional pleasure given by rhyme was 
easily felt in a language where accidental rhymes come so 
often as they do in Latin, but the rhyme here, so far as 
there is any, is rather incidental to the way in which the 
language is used, with its silvery chimes and recurrences, 
than sought out for its own sake; there is more of* actual 
rhyming in some of the prose of Apuleius. The refirain 

Cras amet qui nunquam amavit^ quique amavitcras amet — 

* In the poem as it has come down to us the refrain comes in at 
irregular intervals; but the most plausible reconstitution of a some- 
what corrupt and disordered text makes it recur after every fourth line, 
thus making up the twenty-two stanzas mentioned in the title. 

v.] The Pervigilium Veneris, 245 

has its internal recurrence, the folding back of the -musical 
phrase upon itself; and as it comes over and over again 
it seems to set the whole poem swaying to its own music. 
In one of the most remarkable of his lyrics (like this poem, 
a song of spring), Tennyson has come very near, as near 
perhaps as it is possible to do in words, towards explaining 
the actual process through which poetry comes into exist- 
ence : The fairy fancies range, and lightly stirred, Ring little 
bells of change from word to word. In the Pervigilium 
Veneris with its elaborate simplicity — partly a conscious 
literary artifice, partly a real reversion to the childhood of 
poetical form — this process is, as it were, laid bare before 
our eyes ; the ringing phrases turn and return, and expand 
and interlace and fold in, as though set in motion by a 
strain of music. 

Cras amet qui nunquam amavity quique amavit eras amet; 
Ver novum, ver iam canorum, ver renatus orbis est; 
Vere concordant amores, vere nubunt alites 
Et nemus comam resolvit de maritis imbribus : 

Cras amet qui nunquam amavit, quique amavit cras 
amet — 

in these lines of clear melody the poem opens, and the 
rest is all a series of graceful and florid variations or em- 
broideries upon them ; the first line perpetually repeating 
itself through the poem like a thread of gold in the pattern 
or a phrase in the music. In the soft April night the 
tapering flame- shaped rosebud, soaked in warm dew, swells 
out and breaks into a fire of crimson at dawn. 

Facta Cypridis de cruore deque Amoris osculo 
Deque gemmis deque flammis deque solis purpuris 
Cras ruborem qui latebat veste tectus ignea 
Unico marita nodo non pudebit solvere. 

Flower-garlanded and myrtle-shrouded, the Spring wor- 
jghipper? go dancing through the fields that break before 

246 Latin Literature, [III. 

them into a sheet of flowers ; among them the boy Love 
goes, without his torch and his arrows ; amid gold-flowered 
broom, under trees unloosening their tresses, in myrtle- 
thicket and poplar shade, the whole land sings with the 
voices of innumerable birds. Then with a sudden sob the 
pageant ceases : — 

lUa cantat, nos tacemus : quando ver venit tneum f 
Quando fiam uti chelidon ut tacere desinam ? 

A second spring, in effect, was not to come for poetry 
till a thousand years later; once more then we hear the 
music of this strange poem, not now in the clear bronze 
utterance of a mature and magnificent language, but faintly 
and haltingly, in immature forms that yet have notes of new 
and piercing sweetness. 

Bels dous amicXyfassam unjoc navel 
Ins eljardi on chanton it auzel — 

so it rings out in Southern France, " in an orchard under 
the whitethorn leaf;" and in England, later, but yet a 
century before Chaucer, the same clear note is echoed, 
bytuene Mershe ant Avert!, whan spray biginetk to spring. 

But in the Roman Empire under the Antonines the soil, 
the race, the language, were alike exhausted. The anarchy 
of the third century brought with it the wreck of the whole 
fabric of civilisation ; and the new religion, already widely 
diffused and powerful, was beginning to absorb into itself 
on all sides the elements of thought and emotion which 
♦ended towards a new joy and a living art. 




The new religion was long in adapting itself to literary 
form ; and if, between the era of the Antonines and that of 
Diocletian, a century passes in which all the important 
literature is Christian, this is rather due to the general 
decay of art and letters, than to any high literary quality 
in the earlier patristic writing. Christianity began. among ^ 
the lojver classes, and in the Greek-speaking provinces of 
the Empire ; after it reached Rome, and was diffused through 
the Western provinces, it remained for a long time a some- 
what obscure sect, confined, in the first instance, to the 
small Jewish or Graeco-Asiatic colonies which were to be 
found in all centres of commerce, and spreading from them 
among the uneducated urban populations. The persecution 
of Nero was directed against obscure people, vaguely known 
as a sort of Jews, and the martyrdom of the two great 
apostles was an incident that passed without remark and 
almost without notice. Tacitus dismisses the Christians in 
a few careless words, and evidently classes the new religion 
with other base Oriental superstitions as hardly worth 
serious mention. The well-known correspondence between 
Pliay and Trajan, on the subject of the repressive measures: , ^ 
to be taken against the Christians of Bithynia, indicated  
that Christianity, had, by the beginning of the second 
century, taken a large and firm footing, in the Etsters^ 



248 Latin Literature, [III. 

provinces ; but it is not till a good many years later that we 
have any certain indication of its obtaining a hold on the 
educated classes. The legend of the conversion of Statius 
seems to be of purely mediaeval origin. Flavins Clemens, the 
cousin of the Emperor Domitian, executed on the ground 
of " atheism " during the year of his consulship, is claimed, 
though without certainty, as the earliest Christian mart)n: of 
high rank. Even in the middle of the second century, the 
Church of Rome mainly consisted of people who could 
barely speak or write Latin. Thei. Muratorian fragment, 
the earliest Latin Christian document, which general 
opinion dates within a few years of the death of Marcus 
Aurelius, and which is part of an extremely important 
official list of canonical writings issued by the authority of 
the Roman Church, is barbarous in construction and diction. 
It is in the reign of Commodus, amid the wreck of all other 
literatrre, that we come on the first Christian authors. 
Victor, Bishop of Rome from the year 186, is mentioned by 
Jerome as the first author of theological treatises in Latin ; 
taken together with his attempt to excommunicate the 
Asiatic Churches on the question, already a burning one, 
of the proper date of keeping Easter, this shows that the 
Latin Church was now gaining independent force and 

Two main streams may be traced in the Christian litera- 
ture which begins with the reign of Commodus. On the 
one hand, there is what may be called the African school, 
writing in the new Latin ; on the other, the Italian school, 
which attempted to mould classical Latin to Christian use. 
The former bears a close affinity in style to Apuleius, or, 
rather, to the movement of which Apuleius was the most 
remarkable product ; the latter succeeds to Quintilian and 
his contemporaries as the second impulse of Ciceronianism. 
The two opposing methods appear at their sharpest contrast 
in the earliest authors of each, TertuUian and Minucius 
'Felix. The vast preponderance of the former, alike in volume 

VI.] Minucws Felix. 249 

of production and fire of eloquence, offers a suggestive 
parallel to the comparative importance of the two schools 
in the history of ecclesiastical Latin. Throughout the 
third and fourth centuries the African school continues to 
predominate, but it takes upon itself more of the classical 
finish, and tames the first ferocity of its early manner. 
Cyprian inclines more to the style of Tertullian ; Lactantius, 
"the Christi an Cic ero," reverts strongly towards the classical 
forms : and finally, towards the end of the fourth century, 
the two languages arc combined by Augustine, in propor- 
tions which, throughout the Middle Ages, form the accepted 
type of the language of Latin Christianity. 

In a fine passage at the opening of the fifth book of his 
Institutes of Divinity^ Lactantius regrets the imperfect 
literary support given to Christianity by his two eminent 
predecessors. The ob scur ity and harsh^^gg nf "y^ffnllian, 
he says (and to this may be added his Montanism, which 
fluctuated on the edge of heresy), prevent him from being 
read or esteemed as widely as his great literary power 
deserves ; while Minucius, in hi^single treatise, the Octavius, 
gave a brilliant specimen of his grace and power as a 
Christian apologist, but did not carry out the task to its full 
scope. This last treatise is, indeed, of unique interest, not 
only as a fine, if partial, vindication of the new religion, 
but as the single writing of the age. Christian or pagan, 
which in style and diction follows the classical tradition, 
and almost reaches the classical standard. As to the life 
of its author, nothing is known beyond the scanty indica- 
tions given in the treatise itself. Even his date is not 
wholly certain, and, while the reign of Commodus is his 
most probable period, Jerome appears to allude to him as 
later than Tertullian, and some modem critics incline to 
place the work in the reign of Alexander Severus. 

The Octavius is a dialogue in the Ciceronian manner, 
showing especially a close study of the De Natura 
Deorum, A brief and graceful introduction gives an 

* - * •» 

250 Latin Literature, [III. 

account of the scene of the dialogue. The narrator^ with 
his two friends, Octavius and Caecilius, the former a 
Christian, the latter a somewhat wavering adherent of the 
old faith, are taking a walk on the beach near Ostia on 
a beautiful autumn morning, watching the little waves 
lapping on the sand, and boys playing duck-and- drake 
with pieces of tile, when Caecilius kisses his hand, in the 
ordinary pagan usage, to an image of Serapis which they 
pass. The incident draws them on to a theological dis- 
cussion. Caecilius sets forth the argument against Christi- 
anity in detail, and Octavius replies to him point by point ; 
at the end, Caecilius professes himself overcome, and 
declares his adhesion to the faith of his friend. Both in 
the attack and in the defence it is only the rational side of 
the new doctrine which is at issue. The unity of God, the 
resurrection of the body, and retribution in a future state, 
make up the sum of Christisyiity as it is presented. The 
name of Christ is not onte mentioned, nor is his divinity 
directly asserted. There is no allusion to the sacraments, 
or to the doctrine of the Redemption ; and Octavius neither 
quotes from nor refers to the writings of either Old or New 
Testament. Among early Christian writings, this method 
of treatment is unexampled elsewhere. The work is an 
attempt to present the new religion to educated opinion as 
a reasonable philosophic system ; as we read it, we might 
be in the middle of the eighteenth century. With this 
temperate rationalism is combined a clearness and purity 
of diction, founded on the Ciceronian style, but without 
Cicero's sumptuousness of structure, that recalls the best 
prose of the Silver Age. 

The author of the Octavius was a lawyer, who practised 
in the Roman courts. The literary influence of Quintilian 
no doubt lasted longer among the legal profession, for 
whose guidance he primarily wrote, than among the gram- 
marians and journalists, who represent in this age the 
general tendency of the world of letters. But even in the 

VI.] Tertullian, 251 

legal profession the new Latin had established itself, and, 
except in the capital, seems to have almost driven out the 
classical manner. Its most remarkable exponent among 
Christian writers was, up to the time of his conversion, 
a pleader in the Carthaginian law-courts. 

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was born at 
Carthage towards the end of the reign of Antoninus Pius. 
When he was a young man, the fame of Apuleius as a 
writer and lecturer was at i^^ height ; and though Tertullian 
himself never mentions him (as Apuleius, on his side, never 
refers in specific term^ to the Christian religion) , they must 
have been well known to each other, and their antagonism 
is of the kind which grows out of strong similarities of 
nature. Apuleius passed for a magician : Tertullian was 
a firm believer in magic, and his conversion to Christianity 
was, he himself tells us, very largely due to confessions of 
>ts truth extorted from demons, at the strange spiritualistic 
seances which were a feature of the time among all classes. 
His conversion took place in the last year of Commodus. 
The tension between the two ifeligions — for in Africa, at all 
events, the old and the new were followed with equally fiery 
enthusiasm — had already reached breaking point. A 
heathen mob, headed by the priestesses of the Mater et 
Virgo Caelestis, the object of the ecstatic worship afterwards 
transferred to the mother of Christ, had two or three years 
before besieged the proconsul of Africa in his own house 
because he refused to order a general massacre of the 
Christians. In the anarchy after the assassination of Com- 
modus, the persecution broke out, and continued to rage 
throughout the reign of Septimius Severus. It was in these 
years that Tertullian poured forth the series of apologetic 
and controversial writings whose fierce enthusiasm and im- 
petuous eloquence open the history of Latin Christianity. 
The Apologeticum, the greatest of his earlier works, and, 
upon the whole, his masterpiece, was composed towards 
the beginning of this persecution, in the last years of the 

252 Latin Literature. [III. 

second century. The terms in which its purport is stated, 
Quod religio Christiana damnanda non sity nisi qualis sit 
prius inteUigatury might lead one to expect a grave and 
reasoned defence of the new doctrine, like that of the 
Octavius, But Tertullian*s strength is in attack, not in 
defence ; and his apology passes almost at once into a fierce 
indictment of paganism, painted in all the gaudiest colours 
of African rhetoric. Towards the end, he turns violently 
upon those who say that Christianity is merely a system of 
philosophy : and writers like Minucius are included with 
the eclectic pagan schoolmen in his condemnation. Here, 
for the first time, the position is definitely taken which has 
since then had so vast and varied an influence, that the 
Holy Scriptures are the source of all wisdom, and that the 
poetry and philosophy of the Graeco-Roman world were 
alikfe derived or perverted from the inspired writings of the 
Old Testament. Moses was five hundred years before 
Homer; and therefore, runs his grandiose and sweeping 
fallacy, Homer is derived from the books of Moses. The 
argument, strange to say, has lived almost into our own 

In thus breaking with heathen philosophy and poetry, 
TertuUian necessarily broke with the literary traditions of 
Europe for a thousand years. The Holy Scriptures, as a 
canon of revealed truth, became incidentally but inevitably 
a canon of Hterary style likewise. Writings soaked in 
quotations from the Hebrew poets and prophets could not 
but be affected by th|ir style through and through. A 
current Latin translation of the Old and New Testament — 
the so-called ItalUy which itself only survives as the ground- 
work of later versions — had already been made, and was in 
wide use. Its rude literal fidelity imported into Christian 
Latin an enormous mass of Grecisms and Hebraisms — the 
latter derived from the original writings, the former from 
the Septuagint version of the Old Testament — which 
combined with its free use of popular language and its 


VI.] Tertullian, 253 

relaxed grammar to force the new Latin further and further 
away from the classical tradition. The new religion, though 
it met its educated opponents in argument and outshone 
them in rhetorical embellishment, still professed, after the 
example of its first founders, to appeal mainly to the simple 
and the poor. " Stand forth, O soul ! " cries TertuUian in 
another treatise of the same period ; " I appeal to thee, not 
as wise with a wisdom formed in the schools, trained in 
libraries, or nourished in Attic academy or portico, but as 
simple and rude, without polish or culture; such as thou 
art to those who have thee only, such as thou art in the 
cross-road, the highway, the dockyard." 

In the ardour of its attacks upon the heathen civilisation, 
the rising Puritanism of the Church bore hard upon the 
whole of culture. As against the theatre and the gladiatorial 
games, indeed, it occupied an unassailable position. The^e 
is a grim and characteristic humour in Tertullian's story of 
the Christian woman who went to the theatre and came 
back from it possessed with a devil, and the devil's crushing 
reply, In meOf^eam inveniy to the expostulation of" the 
exorcist ; a nobler passion rings in his pleading against the 
butcheries of the amphitheatre, "Do you wish to see 
blood ? Behold Christ's ! " His declamations against 
worldly luxury and ornament in the sumptuous pages 
of the De Cidtu Feminarum are not more sweeping or 
less sincere than those of Horace or Juvenal; but the 
violent attack made on education and on literature itself in 
the De Idololatria shows the growth of that persecuting 
spirit which, as it gathered material force, destroyed ancient 
art and literature wherever it found them, and which led 
Pope Gregory, four hundred years later, to bum the 
magnificent library founded by Augustus. Nos sumus in 
quos decucurrerunt fines seculorum, " upon us the ends of the 
world are come," is the burden of Tertullian's impassioned 
argument. What were art and letters to those who waited, 
from moment to moment, for the glory of the Second 


254 Latin Literature, [III. 

Coming? Yet for ten years or more he continued to pour 
forth his own brilliant essays ; and while the substance of his 
teaching becomes more and more harsh and vindictive, the 
force of his rhetoric, his command over irony and invective, 
the gorgeous richness of his vocabulary, remain as striking 
as ever. In the strange and often romantic psychology of 
the De Animay and in the singular clothes-philosophy of the 
De PaUiOy he appears as the precursor of Swedenborg and 
Teufelsdrockh. A remarkable passage in the former treatise, 
in which he speaks of the growing pressure of over-population 
in the Empire, against which wars, famines, and pestilences 
had become necessary if unwelcome remedies, may lead us 
to reconsider the theory, now largely accepted, that the 
Roman Empire decayed and perished for want of men. 
With the advance of years his growing antagonism to the 
Catholic Church is accompanied by a further hardening of 
his style. The savage Puritanism of the De Monogamid 
and De leiunio is couched in a scholastic diction where the 
tradition of culture is disappearing; and in the gloomy 
ferocity of the De Pudicitia, probably the latest of his 
extant works, he comes to a final rupture alike with 
Catholicism and with humane letters^ 

The African school of patristic writers, of which TertuUian 
is at once the earliest and the most imposing figure, and of 
which he was indeed to a large degree the direct founder, 
continued for a century after his death to include the main 
literary production of Latin Christianity. Thascius Caecilius 
Cyprianus, Bishop of Carthage from the year 248, though 
a pupil and an admirer of TertuUian, reverts in his own 
writings at once to orthodoxy and to an easy and copious 
diction. In earlier youth he had been a professor of 
rhetoric ; after his conversion in mature life, he gave up all 
his wealth to the poor, and devoted his great literary gifts to 
apologetic and hortatory writings. He escaped the Decian 
persecution by retiring from Carthage; but a few years 
later he was executed in the renewed outbreak of judicial 

VI.] Cyprian and Lactantius. 255 

massacres which sullied the short and disastrous reign of 
Valerian. Forty years after Cyprian's death the rhetorician 
Amobius of Sicca in Numidia renewed the attack on pagan- 
ism, rather than the defence or exposition of Christianity, 
in the seven books Adversus Nationes, which he is said to 
have written as a proof of the sincerity of his conversion. 
"Uneven and ill-proportioned," in the phrase of Jerome, 
this work follows neither the elaborate rhetoric of the early 
African school, nor the chaster and more polished style of 
Cyprian, but rather renews the inferior and slovenly manner 
of the earlier antiquarians and encyclopedists. A free use 
of the rhetorical figures goes side by side with a general 
want of finish and occasional lapses into solecism. His 
literary gift is so small, and his knowledge of the religion 
he professes to defend so slight and so excessively inaccurate, 
that theologians and men of letters for once agree that his 
main value consists in the fragments of antiquarian informa- 
tion which he preserves. But he has a fiirther claim to 
notice as the master of a celebrated pupil. 

Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius, a name eminent 
among patristic authors, and not inconsiderable in humane 
letters, had, like Cyprian, been a professor of rhetoric, and 
embraced Christianity in mature life. That he was a pupil 
of Amobius is established by the testimony of Jerome ; his 
African birth is only a doubtful inference from this fact. 
Towards the end of the third century he established a 
school at Nicomedia, which had practically become the 
seat of empire under the rule of Diocletian; and from 
there he was summoned to the court of Gaul to superintend 
the education of Crispus,-the ill-fated son of Constantine. 
The new religion had passed through its last and sharpest 
persecution under Diocletian; now, of the two joint- 
emperors Constantine openly favoured the Christians, and 
Licinius had been forced to relax the hostility towards 
them which he had at first shown. As it permeated the 
court and saw the reins of government almost within its 

256 Latin Literature, pil. 

grasp, the Church naturally dropped some of the anathema- 
tising spirit in which it had regarded art and literature in 
the days of its earlier struggles. Lactantius brought to its 
service a taste trained in the best literary tradition; and 
while some doubt was cast on his dogmatic orthodoxy as 
regards the precise definition of the Persons of the Trinity, 
his pure and elegant diction was accepted as a model for 
later writers. His greatest work, the seven books of the 
Institutes of Divinityy was published a few years before 
the victory of Constantine over Maxentius outside the 
walls of Rome, which was the turning-point in the contest 
between the two religions. It is an able exposition of 
Christian doctrine in a style which, for eloquence, copi- 
ousness, and refinement, is in the most striking contrast 
to the wretched prose produced by contemporary pagan 
writers. The influence of Cicero is obvious and avowed 
throughout; but the references in the work show the 
author to have been familiar with the whole range of the 
Latin classics, poets as well as prose writers. Ennius, 
the comedians and satirists, Virgil and Horace, are cited by 
him freely; he even dares to praise Ovid. In his treatise 
On Go(fs Workmanship — De Opificio Dei — the arguments 
are often borrowed with the language from Cicero, but 
Lucretius is also quoted and combated. The more 
fanatical side of the new religion appears in the curious 
work, De Mortibus Persecutorum^ written after Constantine 
had definitely thrown in his lot with Christianity. It is 
famous as containing the earliest record of the vision of 
Constantine before the battle of the Mulvian Bridge ; and 
its highly coloured account of the tragical fates of the 
persecuting Emperors, from Nero to Diocletian, had a large 
effect in fixing the tradition of the later Empire as viewed 
throughout the Middle Ages. The long passionate pro- 
test of the Church against heathen tyranny breaks out 
here into equally passionate exultation ; the Roman Empire 
is already seen, as it was later by St. Augustine, fading and 

VI.] Commodianus, 257 

crumbling away with the growth of the new and imperial 
City of God. 

Besides the large and continuous volume of its prose 
production, the Latin ChUrch of the third century also 
made its first essays in poetry. They are both rude and 
scanty; it was not till late in the fourth century that 
Christian poetry reached its full development in the hymns 
of Ambrose and Prudentius, and the hexameter poems of 
Paulinus of Nola. The province of Africa, fertile as it was 
in prose writers, never produced a poet of any eminence. 
The pieces in verse — they can hardly be called poems — 
ascribed to Tertullian and Cyprian are forgeries of a late 
period. But contemporary with them is an African verse 
writer of curious linguistic interest, Commodianus. A 
bishop of Marseilles, who wrote, late in the fifth century, 
a continuation of St. Jerome's catalogue of ecclesiastical 
writers, mentions his work in a very singular phrase : 
"After his conversion," he says, "Commodianus wrote 
a treatise against the pagans in an intermediate language 
approximating to verse," mediocri sermone quasi versu. This 
treatise, the Carmen Apologeticutn adversus ludaeos et GenieSy 
is extant, together with other pieces by the same author. 
It is a poem of over a thousand lines, which the allusions 
to the Gothic war and the Decian persecution fix as 
having been written in or very near the year 250. It is 
written in hexameters, composed on a system which wavers 
between the quantitative and accentual treatment. These 
are almost evenly balanced. The poem is thus a document 
of great importance in the history of the development of 
mediaeval out of classical poetry. Though not, of course, 
without his barbarisms, Commodianus was obviously neither 
ignorant nor careless of the rules of classical versification, 
some of which — iW instance, the strong caesura in the 
middle of the third fbot — he retains with great strictness. 
His peculiar prosody is plainly deliberate. Only a very 
few lines are wholly quantitative, and none are wholly 

258 Latin Literature. pil. 

accentual, except where accent and quantity happen to 
coincide. Much of the pronunciation of modem Italian 
may be traced in his remarkable accentuation of some 
words ; like Italian, he both throws back the accent off a 
long syllable and slides it forward upon a short one. 
Assonance is used freely, but there is not more rh)rming 
than is usual in the poetry of the late empire. Not only in 
pronunciation, but in grammatical inflexion, the beginnings 
of Italian here and there appear. The case-forms of the 
different declensions are beginning to run into one another : 
the plural, for example, of insignis is no longer insignes, but, 
as in Italian, insigni ; and the case-inflexions themselves 
are dwindling away before the free use of prepositions, 
which was already beginning to show itself, in the Pervigilium 

Popular poetry was now definitely asserting itself along- 
side of book-poetry formed on the classical model. But 
authors who kept up a high literary standard in prose 
continued to do so in verse also. The elegiac piece 
De Ave Phoenice, found in early mediaeval collections under 
the name of Lactantius, and accepted as his by recent 
critics, is written in accurate and graceful elegiac couplets, 
which are quite in accordance with the admiration Lac- 
tantius, in his work On the Wrath of God, expresses for 
Ovid. It is perhaps the earliest instance outside the field 
of prose of the truce or coalition which was slowly form- 
ing itself between the new religion and the old culture. 
Beyond a certain faint and almost impalpable mysticism, 
which hints at the legend of the Phoenix as symbolical 
of the doctrine of the Resurrection, there is nothing in the 
poem which is distinctively Christian. Phoebus and the 
lyre of Cyllene are invoked, as they might be by a pagan 
poet. But the language is from beginning to end full of 
Christian or, at least, scriptural reminiscences, which could 
only be possible to a writer familiar with the Psalter. 
The description with which the poems opens of the Earthly 

VI.] The Empire and the Church, 259 

Paradise^ a " land east of the sun," where the bird has 
its home, has mingled touches of the Elysium of Homer 
and Virgil, and the New Jerusalem of the Revelation \ as 
in the Psalms, the sun is a bridegroom coming out of 
his chamber, and night and day are full of a language that 
is not speech. 

In the literary revival of the latter half of the fourth 
century these tendencies have developed themselves, and 
taken a more mature but a less interesting form. After 
Christianity had become formally and irrevocably the State 
religion, it took over what was left of Latin culture as 
part of the chaotic inheritance which it had to^ccept 
as the price for civil establishment. A heavy price was 
paid on both sides when Constantine, in Dante's luminous 
phrase, " turned the eagles." The Empire definitively 
parted with the splendid administrative and political tra- 
dition founded on the classical training and the Stoic 
philosophy ; though shattered as it had been in the anarchy 
of the third century, that was perhaps in any case irrecover- 
able. The Church, on its side, drew away in the persons 
of its leaders from its earlier tradition, with all that it 
involved in the growth of a wholly new thought and art, 
and armed or hampered itself with that classicalism from 
which it never again got quite free. It is in the century 
before Constantine, therefore, when old and new were in 
the sharpest antagonism, and yet were both full of a 
strange ferment — the ferment of dissolution in the one 
case, in the other that of quickening — that the end of 
the ancient world, and with it the end of Latin literature 
as such, might reasonably be placed. But the first result 
of the alliance between the Empire and the Church was 
to give added dignity to the latter and renewed energy 
to the former. The partial revival of letters in the fourth 
century may induce us to extend the period of the ancient 
Latin literature so far as to include Ausonius and Claudian as 
legitimate, though remote^ successors of the Augustan poets* 

VII. v^*^'' >^ 


FoR^ full century after the death of Marcus Aurelius, 
Latin literature was, apart from the Christian writers, 
practically extinct. The authors of the least importance, 
or whose names even are known to any but professional 
scholars, may be counted on the fingers of one hand. The 
stream of Roman law, the one guiding thread down those 
dark ages, continued on its steady course. Papinian and 
Ulpian, the two foremost jurists of the reigns of Septimius ^^ 
and Alexander Severus, bear a reputation as high as that 
of any of their illustrious predecessors. Both rose to what 
was in this century the highest administrative position in 
the Empire, the prefecture of the praetorian guards. 
Papinian, a native it seems of the Syrian town of Emesa, 
and a kinsman of the Syrian wife of Septimius Severus, was 
the author of numerous legal works, both in Greek and 
Latin. Under Severus he was not only commander of the 
household troops, but discharge4 what we should now call 
the duties of Home Secretary. His genius for law was 
united with an independence of judgment and a sense of 
equity which rose beyond the limits of formal jurisprudence, 
and made him one of the great humanising influences of 
his profession. He was murdered, with circumstances of 
great brutality, by the infamous Caracalla, almost immediately 
after his accession to sole power. Domitius Ulpianus, 
Papinian's successor as the head of Latin jurists, was also 

260 Jl 

VII.] Papinian and Ulpian: Sammonicus, 261 

a Syrian by birth. Already an assessor to Papinian, and a 
member of the imperial privy council, he was raised to the 
praetorian prefecture and afterwards removed from it by 
his countryman, the Emperor Heliogabalus, but reinstated 
by Alexander Severus, under whom he was second ruler 
of the Empire till killed in a revolt of the praetorian guards 
in the year 228. He was succeeded in the prefecture by 
Julius Paulus, a jurist of almost equal eminence, though 
inferior to Ulpian in style and literary grace. Roman law 
practically remained at the point where these three 
eminent men left it, or only followed in their footsteps, 
until its final systematisation under Justinian. 

Beyond the field of law, such prose as was written in 
this century was mainly Greek. The historical works of 
Herodian and Dio Cassius, poor in quality as they are, 
seem to have excelled anything written at the same time in 
Latin. Their contemporary, Marius Maximus, continued 
the series of biographies of the Emperors begun by Suetonius, 
carr)dng it down from Nerva to Heliogabalus ; but the work, 
such as it was, is lost, and is only known as the main source 
used by the earlier compilers of the Augustan History, 
Verse-making had fallen into the hands of inferior gram- 
marians. Of their numerous productions enough survives 
to indicate that a certain technical skill was not wholly lost. 
The metrical treatises of Terentianus Maurus, a scholar of 
the later years of the second century, show that the science 
of metre was studied with great care, not only in its common 
forms, but in the less familiar lyric measures. The didactic 
poem on the art of medicine by Quintus Sammonicus 
Serenus, the son of an eminent bibliophile, and the friend 
of the Emperor Alexander Severus, though of little poetical 
merit, is written in graceful and fluent verse. If of little 
merit as poetry, it is of even less as science. Medicine 
had sunk lower towards barbarism than versification, when 
a sovereign remedy against fevers was described in these 
polished lines : — 

262 Latin Literature. piL 

Inscribis chartae quod dicitur Abracadabraj 
Saepius et subter repetis, sed detrahe summam 
Et magis atque magis desint elementa figuris^ 
Singula quae semper rapies et cetera figes 
Donee in angustum redigatur titera conum : 
His lino nexis collum redimire memento. 

Nor is his alternative remedy of a piece of coral hung round 
the patient's neck much more rational The drop from the 
science of Celsus is much more striking here than the drop 
from the art of Celsus' contemporary Manilius. An inter- 
mittent . imperial patronage of letters lingered on. The 
elder and younger Gordian (the latter a pupil of Sammonicus' 
father^ who bequeathed his immense hbrary to him) had 
some reputation as writers. Clodius Albinus, the governor 
of Britain who disputed the empire with Septimius Severus, 
was a devoted admirer of Apuleius, and wrote romances in 
a similar manner, which, according to his biographer, had 
no inconsiderable circulation. 

Under Diocletian and his successors there was a slight 
and partial revival of letters, which chiefly showed itself on 
the side of verse. The Cynegetica^ a. didactic poem on 
hunting, by the Carthaginian poet Marcus Aurelius Olympius 
Nemesianus, is, together with four bucolic pieces by the 
same author, the chief surviving fragment of the main line 
of Virgilian tradition. The Cynegetica, in spite of its good 
taste and its excellent versification, is on the whole a dull 
performance ; but in the other pieces, the pastoral form 
gives the author now and then an opportunity of introducing 
a little touch of the romantic tone which is partly imitated 
from Virgil, but partly natural to the new Latin. 

Perdit spina rosas nee semper lilia candent 

Nee longum tenet uva comas nee populus umbras ; 

Donum forma breve est, nee se quod commodet annis : — 

in these graceful lines the copied Virgilian cadence i^ 

VII.] Tiberianus: the Augustan History, 263 

united with the directness and the real or assumed simplicity 
which belongs to the second childhood of Latin literature, 
and which is so remarkable in the authors who founded the 
new style. The new style itself was also largely practised, 
but only a few scattered remnants survive. Tiberianus, 
Count of Africa, Vicar of Spain, and praetorian prefect of 
Gaul (the whole nomenclature of the Empire is now passing 
from the Roman to the mediaeval type) under Constantine 
the Great, is usually identified with the author of some qf 
the most strikingly beautiful of these fragmentary pieces. 
A descriptive passage, consisting of twenty lines of finely 
written trochaics, reminds one of the Pervigilium Veneris in 
the richness of its language .and the delicate simplicity of 
its style. The last lines may be quoted for their singular 
likeness to one of the most elaborately beautiful stanzas 
of the Faerie Queene, that which describes the sounds 
" consorted in one harmony " which Guy on hears in the 
gardens of Acrasia : — 

Has per umbras omnis ales plus canora quam puies 
Cantibus vemis strepebat et susurris dulcibus : 
Hie loquentis murmur amnis concinebat frondibus 
Quas melos vocalis aurae, musa Zephyri, moverat: 
Sic euntem per virecta pulcra odora et musica 
Ales amnis aura. lucus.flos^et umbra iuverat. 

The principal prose work, however, which has come down 
from this age, shows a continued and even increased degra- 
dation of style. The so-called Historia Augusta^ a series 
of memoirs, in continuation of Suetonius* Lives of the Twelve 
Caesars^ of the Roman Emperors from Hadrian to Numerian 
(a.d. 117-284), was begun under Diocletian and finished 
imder Constantine by six writers — Aelius Spartianus, Julius 
Capitolinus, Vulcacius Gallicanus, Trebellius PoUio, Aelius 
Lampridius, and Flavius Vopiscus. Most of them, if not 
all, were officials of the imperial court, and had free access 
to the registers of the senate as well as to more private 

264 Latin Literature. [in. 

sources of information. The extreme feebleness of the con- 
tents of this curious work is only exceeded by the poverty 
and childishness of the writing. History had sunk into a 
collection of trivial gossip and details of court life, couched 
in a language worthy of a second-rate chronicler of the Dark 
Ages. The mere outward circumstances of the men whose 
lives they narrated — the purpuraH Augustiy as one of the 
authors calls them in a romantically sonorous phrase — were 
indeed of world-wide importance^ and among the masses 
of rubbish of which the memoirs chiefly consist there is 
included much curious information and striking incident 
But their main interest is in the light they throw on the 
gradual sinking of the splendj^ administrative organisation 
of the second century towards the sterile Chinese hierarchy 
of the Byzantine Empire, and the concurrent degradation of 
paganism, both as a political and a religious system. 

Vopiscus, the last of the six authors, apologises, in draw- 
ing the work to a close, for his slender literary power, and 
expresses the hope that his material at least may be found 
useful to some " eloquent man who may wish to unlock 
the actions of princes." What he had in his mind was 
probably not so much regular history as the paneg)aical 
oratory which about this same time became a prominent 
feature of the imperial courts, and gave their name to a 
whole school of writers known as the Panegyrici. Gaul, 
for a long time the rival of Africa as the nurse of judicial 
oratory, was the part of the Empire where this new form 
of literature was most assiduously cultivated. Up to the 
age of Constantine, it had enjoyed practical immunity from 
barbarian invasion, and had only had a moderate share of 
the civil wars which throughout the third century desolated 
all parts of the Empire. In wealth and civilisation, and in 
the arts of peace, it probably held the foremost place among 
the provinces. Marseilles, Narbonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux, 
Autun, Rheims, and Treves all possessed famous and 
flourishing schools of oratory. The last-named town was 

VII.] Ausonius. 265 

after the supreme power had been divided among two or 
more Augusti, a frequent seat of the imperial government 
of the Western provinces, and, like Milan, became a more 
important centre of public life than Rome. Of the extant 
collection of panegyrics, two were delivered there before 
Diocletian's colleague, the Emperor Maximianus. A florid 
Ciceronianism was the style most in vogue, and the phrase- 
ology, at least, of the old State religion was, until the 
formal adoption of Christianity by the government, not 
only retained, but put prominently forward. Eumenius of 
Autun, the author of five or more pieces in the collection, 
deUvered at dates between the years 297 and 311, is the 
most distinguished figure of the group. His fluent and 
ornate Latin may be read with some pleasure, though the 
purpose of the orations leaves them little value as a record 
of facts or a candid expression of opinions. Under the 
influence of these nurseries of rhetoric a new Gallic school 
of Christian writers rose and flourished during the fourth 
century. Hilarius of Poitiers, the most eminent of the 
Gallic bishops of this period, wrote controversial and 
expository works in the florid involved style of the neo- 
Ciceronian orators, which had in their day a high reputation. 
As the first known author of Latin hymns, he is the pre- 
cursor of Ambrose and Prudentitrs. Ambrose himself, 
though as Bishop of Milan he belongs properly to the 
Italian school of theological writers, was born and probably 
educated at Treves. But the literature of the province 
reached its highest point somewhat later, in one of the most 
important authors of the century, Decimus Magnus Ausonius 
of Bordeaux. 

Ausonius was of Gallic blood by both parents ; he was 
educated in grammar and rhetoric at the university of 
Bordeaux, and was afterwards for many years professor of 
both subjects at that of Treves. As tutor to Gratian, son 
and successor of the Emperor Valentinian, he established 
himself ii^ court favour, and fulfilled many high State officest 

266 Latin Literature. \Uh 

After Gradan was succeeded by Theodosius he retired to 
a lettered ease near his native town, where he lived tiU 
nearly the end of the century. His numerous poetical 
works are of the most miscellaneous kind, ranging from 
Christian hymns and elegies on deceased relations to trans- 
lations from the Greek Anthology and centos from VirgiL 
^mong them the volume of IdylUa constitutes his chief 
claim to eminence, and gives him a high rank among the 
later Latin poets. The gem of this collection is the &mous 
Mosella, written at Treves about the year 370. The most 
beautiful of purely descriptive Latin poems, it is unique in 
the felicity with which it unites Viigilian rhythm and diction 
with the new romantic sense of the beauties of nature. 
The feeling for the charm of landscape which we had 
occasion to note in the letters of the younger Pliny is here 
fully developed, with a keener eye and an enlarged power of 
expression. Pliny's description of the Clitumnus may be 
interestingly compared with the passage of this poem in 
which Ausonius recounts, with fine and observant touches, 
the beauties of his northern river — the liquid lapse of 
waters, the green wavering reflections, the belt of crisp 
sand by the water's edge and the long weeds swajring with 
the stream, the gleaming gravel-beds under the water with 
their patches of moss and the quick fishes darting hither 
and thither over them ; or the oftener-quoted and not less 
beautiful lines where he breaks into rapture over the simset 
colouring of stream and bank, and the glassy water where, 
at evening, all the hills waver and the vine-tendril shakes 
and the grape-bunches swell in the crystal mirror. In virtue 
of this poem Ausonius ranks not merely as the last, or all 
but the last, of Latin, but as the first of French poets. His 
feeling for the country of his birth has all the romantic 
patriotism which we are accustomed to associate with a 
much earlier or a much later age. The language of Du 
Bellay in the sixteenth century — 

VII.] Ausonius, 267 

Plus que le marbre dur me plats t Vardoise fine^ 
Plus mon Loire Gaulois que le Tybre Latin — 

is anticipated here. The softer northern loveliness, la 
douceur Angevine, appeals to Ausonius more than all the 
traditional beauties of Arcadia or Sicily. It is with the 
Gallic rivers that he compares his loved Moselle : Non tibi 
se Liger anteferet^ non Axona praeceps , , . te sparsis incerta 
Druentia ripis, 

O lordly flow the Loire and Seine 
And loud the dark Durance / — 

we seem to hear the very words of the modem ballad : and 
at the end of the poem his imagination returns, with the 
fondness of a lover, to the green lakes and sounding streams 
of Aquitaine, and the broad sea-like reaches of his native 

In this poem, alike by the classic beauty of his language 
and the modernism of his feeling, Ausonius marks one of 
the great divisions in the history of poetry. He is the last 
of the poets of the Empire which was still nominally co- 
extensive with the world, which held in itself East and West, 
the old and the new. The final division of the Roman 
world, which took place in the year 395 between the two 
sons of Theodosius, s)nichronises with a division as definite 
and as final between classical and mediaeval poetry; and 
in the last years of the fourth century the parting of the 
two streams, the separation of the dying from the dawning 
light, is placed in sharp relief by. the works of two con- 
temporary poets, Claudian and Prudentius. The singular 
and isolated figure of Claudian, the posthumous child of the 
classical world, stands alongside of that of the first great 
Christian poet like the figures which were fabled to stand, 
regarding the rising and setting sun, by the Atlantic gates 
where the Mediterranean opened into the unknown Western 

Claudius Claudianus was of Asiatic origin, and lived at 

268 Latin Literature. [m. 

Alexandria antfl^ in the jear of the death of TheodosinSy he 
passed into Italy and became the laureate of the cocut of 
Milan. Till then he had, according to his own statement, 
written in Greek, his life having been passed wholly in the 
Greek-speaking provinces. But immediately on his arrival 
at the seat of the Western or Latin Empire he showed him- 
self a master of the language and forms of Latin poetry 
such as had not been known since the end of the first 
century. His poems, so far as they can be dated, belong 
entirely to the next ten years. He is conjectured not to 
have long survived the downfall of his patron Stilicho, 
the great Vandal general who, as guardian of the young 
Emperor Honorius, was practically ruler of the Western 
Empire. He was the last eminent man of letters who was 
a professed pagan. 

The historical epics which Claudian produced in rapid 
succession during the last five years of the fourth and the 
first five of the fifth century are now little read, except 
by historians who refer to them for details of the wars 
or court intrigues of the period. A hundred )rears ago, 
when Statius and Silius Italicus formed part of the regular 
course of classical study, he naturally and properly stood 
alongside of them. His Latin L as pure as that of the 
best poets of the Silver Age ; in wealth of language and 
in fertility of imagination he is excelled, if at all, by Statius 
alone. Alone in his age he inherits the scholarly tradition 
which still lingered among the libraries of Alexandria. 
Nonnus, the last and not one of the least learned and 
graceful of the later Greek epicists, who probably lived not 
long after Claudian, was also of Eg)rptian birth and training, 
and he and Claudian are really the last representatives of 
that Alexandrian school which had from the first had so 
large and deep an influence over the literature of Rome. 
The immense range of time covered by Greek literature is 
brought more vividly to our imagination when we consider 
that this single Alexandrian school, which began late in 

VII.] Claudian. 269 

the history of Greek writing and came to an end centuries 
before its extinction, thus completely overlaps at both ends 
the whole life of the literature of Rome, reaching as it 
does from before Ennius till after Claudian. 

These historical epics of Claudian*s — On the Consulate of 
Stilicho, On the Gildonic War, On the PoUentine War, On 
the Third, Fourthy and Sixth Consulates of Honorius — are 
accompanied by other pieces, written in the same stately 
and harmonious hexameter, of a more personal interest: 
invectives against Rufinus and Eutropius, the rivals of his 
patron; a panegyric on Stilicho's wife, Serena, the niece 
of Theodosius; a fine epithalamium on the marriage of 
Honorius with Maria, the daughter of Stilicho and Serena ; 
and also by a number of poems in elegiac metre, in which 
he wrote with equal grace and skill, though not with so 
singular a mastery. Among the shorter elegiac pieces, 
which are collected under the title of Epigrams, one, a poem 
on an old man of Verona who had never travelled beyond 
his own little suburban property, is among the jewels of 
Latin poetry. The lines in which he describes this quiet 
garden life — 

Frugibus altemis, non consule cotnputat annum ; 

Auctumnum pomis, ver sibiflore notat; 
Idem condit ager soles idemque reducit, 

Metiturque suo rusticus orbe diem, 
Ingentem meminit parvo qui germine quercum 

Aequaevumque videt consenuisse nemus — 

are in grace and feeling like the very finest work of 
Tibullus ; and the concluding couplet — 

Erret, et extremos alter scrutetur Hiberos, 
Plus habet hie vitae, plus habet ille viae — 

though, in its dependence on a verbal point, it may not 
satisfy the purest taste, is not without a dignity and pathos 
that are worthy of the large manner of the classical period. 

270 Latin Literature. [III. 

Claudian used the heroic hexameter for m3rthological as 
well as historical epics. Of his Gigantomachia we possess 
only an inconsiderable fragment; but the three books of 
the unfinished Rape of Proserpine are among the finest 
examples of the purely literary epic. The description of 
the flowery spring meadows where Proserpine and her 
companions gather blossoms for garlands is a passage per- 
petually quoted. It is interesting to note how the rising 
tide of romanticism has here, as elsewhere, left Claudian 
wholly untouched. The passage, though elaborately ornate, 
is executed in the clear hard manner of the Alexandrian 
school; it has not a trace of that sensitiveness to nature 
which vibrates in the Pervigilium Veneris. We have gone 
back for a moment to that poetical style which perpetually 
reminds us of the sculptured friezes of Greek art, severe in 
outline, immensely adroit and learned in execution, but 
a little chilly and colourless except in the hands of its 
greatest masters. After paying to the full the tribute of 
admiration which is due to Claudian's refined and dignified 
workmanship, we are still left with the feeling that this 
kind of poetry was already obsolete. It is not only that, 
as has been remarked with truth of his historical epics, 
the elaboration of the treatment is disproportionate to the 
importance or interest of the subject. Materiam superabat 
opus might be said with equal truth of much of the work 
of his predecessors. But a new spirit had by this time 
penetrated literature, and any poetry wholly divorced from 
it must be not only artificial — for that alone would prove 
nothing against it — but unnatural. Claudian is a precursor 
of the Renaissance in its narrower aspect ; the last of the 
classics, he is at the same time the earliest, and one of 
the most distinguished, of the classicists. It might seem 
a mere chance whether his poetry belonged to the fourth 
or to the sixteenth century. 

In Claud ian*s distinguished contemporary, the Spanish 
poet Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, Christian Latin poetry 

VII .] Pmdentius. 271 

reached complete maturity. His collected poems were 
published at Rome in 404, the year celebrated by Claudian 
as that of the sixth consulship of Honorius. Before Pru- 
dentius, Christian poetry had been slight in amount and 
rude or tentative in manner. We have already had occa- 
sion to notice its earliest efforts in the rude verses of 
Commodianus. The revival of letters in the fourth century, 
so far as it went, affected Christian as well as secular 
poetry. Under Constantine, a Spanish deacon, one Gains 
Vettius Aquilinus Juvencus, put the Gospel narrative into 
respectable hexameters, which are still extant. The poems 
and hymns which have come down under the name of 
Bishop Hilary of Poitiers are probably spurious, and a 
similar doubt attache^ to those ascribed to the eminent 
grammarian and rhetorician, Oaius Marius Victorinus, after 
his conversion. Before Prudentius published his collection, 
the hymns of St. Ambrose had been written, and were 
in use among the Western Churches. But these, though 
they formed the type foi^ all later hymn-writers, were few 
in number. Out of the so-called Ambrosian hymns a 
rigorous criticism only allows five or six as authentic. 
These, however, include two world-famed pieces, still in 
daily use by the Church, the Aeterne rerum Conditor and 
the Deus Creator omnium^ and the equally famous Veni 

To the form thus established by St. Ambrose, Prudentius, 
in his two books of lyrical poems, gave a larger volume 
and a more sustained literary power. The Cathemerina, 
a series of poems on the Christian life, and the Periste- 
phanoHy a book of the praise of Christian martyrs — St. 
Lawrence, St. Vincent, St. Agnes, among other less cele- 
brated names — at once represent the most substantial 
addition made to Latin lyrical poetry since Horace, and 
the complete triumph of the new religion. They are not, 
like the Ambrosian hymns, brief pieces meant for actual 
singing in churches. Out of the twenty-six poems only 

2/2 Latin Literature. [HI. 

three are under one hundred lines in length, and that on 
the martyrdom of St. Romanus of Antioch runs to no less 
than eleven hundred and forty, almost the proportions of 
a small epic. But in the brilliance and vigour of their 
language, their picturesque style, and the new joy that, 
in spite of their asceticism, bums throughout them, they 
gave an impulse of immense force towardff the development 
of Christian literature. In merely technical quality they 
are superior to apy poetry of the time, Claudian alone 
excepted ; in their fulness of life, in the exultant tone which 
kindles and sustains them, they make Claudian grow pale 
like a candle-flame at dawn. 

With Prudentius, however, as with Claudian, we have 
almost passed beyond the strict limit of a history of ancient 
Latin literature : and any filler discussion, either of these 
remarkable lyrical pieces, or of his more voluminous ex- 
pository or controversial treatises in hexameter, properly 
belongs to a history of the Christian Church. The two 
most eminent and copious prose writers of the later fourth 
century, Jerome and Augustine, occupy the same am- 
biguous position. Apart from them, and from the less 
celebrated Christian writers who were their predecessors or 
contemporaries, the prose of the fourth century is both 
small in amount and insignificant in quality. The revival 
in verse composition which followed the settlement of the 
Empire imder Constantine scarcely spread to the less 
imitable art of prose. The school of eminent Roman 
grammarians who flourished about the middle of the 
century, and among whom Servius and Donatus are the 
leading names, while they commented on ancient master- 
pieces with inexhaustible industry, and often with really 
sound judgment, wrote themselves in a base and formless 
style. A few authors of technical manuals and epitomes 
of history rise a little above the common level, or have 
a casual importance from the contents of their works. The 
treatises on husbandry by Palladius, and on the art of war 


VII.] Ammianus Marcellinus, 273 

by Flavius Vegetius Renatus, became, to a certain degree, 
standard works; the little handbooks of Roman history 
written in the reigns of Constantius and Valens by Aurelius 
Victor and Eutropius are simple and unpretentious, but 
have little positive merit. The age produced but one 
Latin historian, Ammianus Marcellinus. Like Claudian, 
he was of Asiatic origin, and Greek-speaking by birth, but, 
in the course of his service on the staff of the captain- 
general of the imperial cavalry, had spent much of his life 
in the Latin provinces of Gaul and Italy ; and his history 
was written at Rome, where he lived after retiring from 
active service. The task he set himself, a history of the 
Empire, in continuation of that of Tacitus, from the acces- 
sion of Nerva to the death of Valens, was one of great 
scope and unusual complexity. He brought to it some 
at least of the gifts of the historian : intelligence, honesty, 
tolerance, a large amount of good sense. But his Latin, 
which he never came to write with the ease of a native, 
is difficult and confused ; and to this, probably, should be 
ascribed the early disappearance of the greater part of his 
history. The last eighteen books, containing the history 
of only five and twenty years, have survived. The greater 
part of the period which they cover is one of decay and 
wretchedness; but the account they give of the reign of 
Julian (whom Ammianus had himself accompanied in his 
Persian campaign) is of great interest, and his portrait of 
the feeble incapable rule of Julian's successors, distracted 
between barbarian inroads and theological disputes, is 
drawn with a firm and almost a masterly hand. 

The Emperor Valens fell, together with nearly the whole 
of a great Roman army, in the disastrous battle of Adria- 
nople. A Visigothic horde, to the number of two hundred 
thousand fighting men, had crossed the Danube ; and the 
Huns and Alans, names even more terrible, joined the stan- 
dards of Fritigern with a countless host of Mongolian cavalry. 
The heart of the Empire lay helpless ; Constantinople itself 

274 Latin Literature, [III. 

was besieged by the conquerors. The elevation of Theo- 
dosius to the purple bore back for a time the tide of 
disaster; once more the civilised world staggered to its 
feet, but with strength and courage fatally broken. At 
this dramatic moment in the downfall of the Roman Empire 
the last of the Latin historians closes his narrative. 





In August 410, while the Emperor Honorius fed his 
poultry among the impenetrable marshes of Ravenna, Rome 
was sacked by a mixed army of Goths and Huns under 
the command of Alaric. Eight hundred years had elapsed 
since the imperial city had been in foreign possession ; and, 
though it had ceased to be the actual seat of government, 
the shock spread by its capture through the entire Roman 
world was of unparalleled magnitude. Six years later, 
a wealthy and distinguished resident, one Claudius Rutilius 
Namatianus, was obliged to take a journey to look after the 
condition of his estates in the south of France, which had 
been devastated by a band of wandering Visigoths. A 
large portion is extant of the poem in which he described 
this journey, one of the most charming among poems of 
travel, and one of the most interesting of the fragments 
of early mediaeval literature. Nowhere else can we see 
portrayed so strongly the fascination which Rome then still 
possessed for the whole of Western Europe, and the 
adoration with which she was still regarded as mother and 
light of the world. The magical statue had been cast away, 
with other heathen idols, from the imperial bedchamber; 
but the Fortuna Urbis itself, the mystical divinity which 
the statue represented, still exercised an overwhelming 
influence over men's imagination. After all the praises 
lavished on her for centuries by so many of her illustrious 


276 Latin Literature. [IIL 

children, it was left for this foreigner, in the age of her 
decay, to pay her the most complete and most splendid 
eulogy : — 

Quod regnas minus est quam quod regnare mereris; 

Excedis factis grandiafata tuis : 
Nam solis radiis aequalia munera tendis^ 

Qua circumfusus fluctuat oceanus, 
Fecisti patriam diversis gentidus unam : 

Profuit invitis te dominante capi; 
Dumque offers victis proprii consortia iuris, 

Urbem fecisti quod prius orbis erat 

In this noble apostrophe Rutilius addressed the fading 
mistress of the world as he passed lingeringly through the 
Ostian gate. Far away in Northern Africa, the most 
profound thinker and most brilliant writer of the age, as 
deeply but very differently moved by the ancestral splen- 
dours of the city and the tragedy of her fall, was then 
composing, with all the resources of his vast learning and 
consummate dialectical skill, the epitaph of the ancient 
civilisation. It was the capture of Rome by Alaric which 
induced St Augustine to undertake his work on the City 
of God, " In this middle age," he says, — in hoc interim 
seculo — the two cities with their two citizenships, the 
earthly and the heavenly, are inextricably enwound and 
intermingled with each other. Not until the Last Judg- 
ment will they be wholly separated ; but the philosophy of 
history is to trace the steps by which the one is slowly 
replaced by, or transformed into, the other. The earthly 
Empire, all the splendid achievement in thought and arts 
and deeds of the Roman civilisation, already fades away 
before that City of God on which his eyes are fixed — 
gloriosissimam Civitatem Dei^ sive in hoc temporum cursu 
cum inter impios peregrinatur ex fide vivens, sive in iUa 
stabiliiate sedis aeternae, quam nunc exspectat per patientiam^ 
quoadusque iustitia convertatur in iudicium. 

VIII.] The End of the Ancient World. 277 

The evolution of this change was, even to the impassioned 
faith of Augustine, slow, intermittent, and fluctuating : nor, 
among many landmarks and turning-points, is it easy to fix 
any single one as definitely concluding the life of the 
ancient world, and marking the beginning of what St. 
Augustine for the first time called by the name, which has 
ever since adhered to it, of the Middle Age. The old 
world slid into the new through insensible gradations. In 
nearly all Latin literature after Virgil we may find traces 
or premonitions of mediaevalism, and after mediaevalism 
was established it long retained, if it ever wholly lost, 
traces of the classical tradition. Thus, while the beginning 
of Latin literature may be definitely placed in a particular 
generation, and almost in a single year, there is no fixed 
point at which it can be said that its history concludes. 
Different periods have been assigned from different points 
of view. In the year 476, Romulus Augustulus, the last of 
the Western Emperors, handed over the name as well as 
the substance of sole power to the Herulian chief Odoacer, 
the first King of Italy ; and the Roman Senate, still in 
theory the supreme governing body of the civilised world, 
formally renounced its sovereignty, and declared its domin- 
ions a diocese of the Byzantine Empire. This is the 
date generally adopted by authors who deal with literature 
as subordinate to political history. But the writer of the 
standard English work on Latin grammar limits his field 
to the period included between Plautus and Suetonius; 
while another scholar, extending his scope three centuries 
and a half further, has written a history of Latin literature 
from Ennius to Boethius. Suetonius and Boethius probably 
represent the extreme variation of limit which can be 
reasonably adopted; but between them they leave room 
for many points of pause. Up to the end of the fourth 
century we have followed a stream of tendency, not, indeed, 
continuous, but yet without any absolute rupture. Between 
the writers of the fourth century and their few successors 

2/8 Latin Literature, [III. 

of the fifth there is no marked change in language or 
manner. Sidonius Apollinaris continues more feebly the 
style of poetry initiated a century before him by Ausonius. 
Boethius wrote his fine treatise On the Consolation of 
Philosophy half a century after the extinction of the Empire 
of the West. By a strange freak of history, it was at the 
Greek capital that Latin scholarship finally fiaded away. 
Priscian and Tribonian wrote at Constantinople; and the 
Western world received its most authoritative works on 
Latin grammar and Roman law, not from the Latin Empire, 
nor from one of the Latin-speaking kingdoms which rose 
on its ruins, but from the half-oriental courts of Anastasius 
and Justinian. 

The two long lives of the great Latin fathers, Jerome and 
Augustine, cover conjointly a space of just a century. 
Jerome was bom probably a few months after the main 
seat of empire was formally transferred to New Rome by 
Constantine. Augustine, bom twenty-three years later, 
died in his cathedral city of Hippo during its siege by 
Genseric in the brief war which t rans formed Africa from a 
Roman province to a Vandal kingdom. The City of God 
had been completed four years previously. A quarter of 
a century before the death of Augustine, Jerome issued, 
from his monastery at Bethlehem, the Latin translation of 
the Bible which, on its own merits, and still more if we 
give weight to its overwhelming influence on later ages, is 
the greatest literary masterpiece of the Lower Empire. Our 
own Authorised Version has deeply affected all post- 
Shakespearian English ; the Vulgate of Jerome, which was 
from time to time revised in detail, but still remains sub- 
stantially as it issued from his haiidlSir had an equally 
profound influence over a vastly greater space and time. 
It was for Europe of the Middle Ages more than Homer 
was to Greece. The year 405, which witnessed its publica- 
tion and that of the last of the poems of Claudian to 
which we can assign a certain date, may claim to be held, 

VIILJ First Period, 279 

if any definite point is to be fixed, as marking the end of 
ancient and the complete establishment of mediaeval 

In the six and a half centuries which had passed since 
the Greek prisoner of war from Tarentum produced the 
first Latin play in the theatre of the mid-Italian Republic 
which was celebrating her victories over the formidable 
sea-power of Carthage, Latin literature had shared the 
vicissitudes of the Roman State ; and the successive stages 
of its development and decay are intimately connected with 
the political and social changes which are the matter of 
Roman history. A century passed between the conclusion 
of the first Punic war and the tribunate of Tiberius 
Gracchus. It was a period for the Republic of internal 
tranquillity and successful foreign war. At its conclusion, 
Italy was organised under Roman control. Greece, 
Macedonia, Spain, and Africa had become subject prov- 
inces; a Roman protectorate was established in Egypt, 
and the Asiatic provinces of the Macedonian Empire only 
preserved a precarious and partial independence. During 
this century, Latin literature had firmly established itself in 
a broad and vigorous growth. Dramatic and epic poetry, 
based on diligent study of the best Greek models, formed 
a substantial body of actual achievement, and under Greek 
impulse the Latin language was being wrought into a medium 
of expression at once dignified and copious, a substance 
capable of indefinite expansion and use in the hands of 
trained artists. Prose was rapidly overtaking verse. The 
schools of law, and the oratory of the senate-house and the 
forum, were developing national forms of literature on 
distinctively Roman lines : a beginning had been made in 
the more difficult field of history; and the invention and 
popularisation of the satire, or mixed form of familiar prose 
and verse, began to enlarge the scope of literature over a 
broader field of life and thought, while immensely adding 
to the flexibility and range of the written language. 

28o Latin Literature. [III. 

A centmy followed during which Roman nde was 
extended and consolidated over the whole area of the 
countries fringing the Mediterranean, while concnrrently 
a long series of revolutions and coonter-revolutioiis ended 
in the overthrow of the republican oligarchy, and the 
establishment of the imperial govemmenL Begiiming with 
the democratic movement of the Gracchi, this century 
includes the civil wars of Marius and Sulla, the temporary 
reconstitution of the oligarchy, the renewed outbreak of war 
between Julius Caesar and the senate, and the confused 
period of administrative anarchy which was terminated by 
the rise of Augustus to a practical dictatorship, and the 
arrangement by him of a working compromise between the 
two great opposing forces. During this century of revolu- 
tion the whole attitude of Rome towards the problems 
both of internal and of foreign politics was forced through 
a series of important changes. The revolt of Italy, which, 
after bringing Rome to the verge of destruction, was finally 
crushed by the Asiatic legions of Sulla^ was almost im- 
mediately followed by the unification of Italy, and her 
practical absorption into the Roman citizenship. With 
renewed and enlarged life, Rome then entered on a second 
extension of her dominions. The annexation of Syria and 
the conquest of Gaul completed the circle of her empire ; 
the subjugation of Spain was completed, and the Eastern 
frontier pushed towards Armenia and the Euphrates; 
finally Egypt, the last survivor of the kingdoms foimded by 
Alexander's generals, passed wholly into Roman hands 
with the extinction of its own royal house. 

During this period of perpetual excitement and high 
political tension, literature, in the forms both of prose and 
verse, rapidly grew towards maturity, and, in the former 
field at least, reached its perfection. Oratory, the great 
weapon of politicians under the unique Republican con- 
stitution, was in its golden age. Greek culture had per- 
meated the governing class. History began to be written 

VIII.] Second and Third Periods. 281 

by trained statesmen, whose education for the command 
of armies and the rule of provinces had been based on 
elaborate linguistic and rhetorical study. Alongside of 
grammar and rhetoric, poetry and philosophy took a place 
as part of the higher education of the citizen. The habit 
and capacity of abstract thought reached Rome from the 
schools of Athens ; with the growing power of expression 
and the increased tension of actual life, the science of 
politics and the philosophy of life and conduct became the 
material of a new and splendid literature. Along with the 
world of ideas diffused by Athens there arrived the immense 
learning and high technical skill of the Alexandrian scholars 
and poets. Roman poetry set itself anew to learn the 
Greek lesson of exquisite form and perfect finish. In the 
hands of two poets of the first order, and of a crowd of 
lesser students, the conquest of poetical form passed its 
crucial point, and the way was prepared for the consumma- 
tion of Latin poetry in the next age. 

Another century carries us from the establishment of the 
Empire by Augustus to the extinction of his family at the 
death of Nero. At the opening of this period the Empire 
was exhausted by civil war, and welcomed any form of 
settled rule. The settlement of the constitution, based as 
it was on a number of elaborate legal fictions meant to 
combine republican forms with the reality of a strong 
monarchical government, left the political situation in a 
state of very unstable equilibrium ; all through the century 
the government was in an uncertain or even a false 
position, and, when Nero*s misrule had made it intolerable, 
it collapsed with a crash which almost shivered the Empire 
into fragments. But it had lasted long enough to lay the 
foundations of the new and larger Rome broadly and 
securely. The provinces, while still in a sense subordinate 
to Italy, had already become organic parts of the Empire, 
instead of subject countries. The haughty and obstinate 
Roman oligarchy was tamed by long years of proscription. 

282 Latin Literature, [III. 

confiscation^ perpetual surveillance, careful exclusion from 
great political power. The municipal institutions and civic 
energy of Rome were multiplied in a thousand centres of 
local life. Internal peace allowed commerce and civilisa- 
tion to spread ; in spite of the immense drain caused by 
the extravagance of the capital and the expense of the 
great frontier armies, the provinces generally rose to a 
higher state of material welfare than they had enjoyed 
since their annexation. 

The earlier years of this century are the most brilliant in 
the history of Latin literature. During the last fifty years 
of the Republic a series of Roman authors of remarkable 
genius had gradually met and mastered the technical 
problems of both prose and verse. The new generation 
entered into their labours. In prose there was little, if 
any, advance remaining to be made. In the fields of 
oratory and philosophy it had already reached its perfec- 
tion ; in that of history it acquired further amplitude and 
colour. But the achievement of the new age was mainly 
in verse. Profound study of the older poetry, and the labori- 
ous training learned from the schools of Alexandria, now 
bore fruit in a body of poetry which, in every field except 
that of the drama, excelled what had hitherto been known, 
and was at once the model and the limit for succeeding 
generations. Latin poetry, like the Empire itself, took a 
broader basis ; the Augustan poets are still Romans, but 
this is because Rome had extended itself over Italy. 

The copious and splendid production of the earlier years 
of the principate of Augustus was followed by an almost 
inevitable reaction. The energy of the Latin speech had 
for the time exhausted itself; and the political necessities 
of the uneasy reigns which followed set further barriers in 
the way of a weakening literary impulse. Then begins the 
movement of the Latin-speaking provinces. Rome had 
absorbed Italy ; Italy in turn begins to absorb and coalesce 
with Gaul, Spain, and Africa. The first of the provinces 

VIII.] Fourth Period, 283 

in the field was Spain, which had become Latinised earlier 
than either of the others. At the court of Nero a single 
brilliant Spanish family founded a new and striking style, 
which for the moment eclipsed that formed by a purer taste 
amid a graver and a more exclusive public. 

A hundred years from the downfall of Nero carry us 
down to the reign of Marcus Aurelius. The Empire, when 
it recovered from the collapse of the year 69, assumed a 
settled and stable organisation. Traditions of the old 
jealousies and discontents lingered during the reigns of 
the three Flavian Emperors ; but the imperial system had 
now got into permanent working order. The cataclysm 
which followed the deposition of Nero is in the strongest 
contrast to the ease and smoothness, only broken by a 
trifling mutiny of the praetorian guards, with which the 
principate passed into the hands of Nerva after the murder 
of Domitian. 

This century is what is properly known as the Silver 
Age. A school of eminent writcrc, in whom the provincial 
and the Italian quality are now hardly to be distinguished, 
produced during its earlier years a large body of admirable 
prose and not undistinguished verse. But before the 
century was half over, the signs of decay began to appear. 
A mysterious languor overcame thought and art, as it did 
the whole organism of the Empire. The conquests of 
Trajan, the peace and material splendour of the reign of 
Hadrian, were followed by a series of years almost without 
events, suddenly broken by the appalling pestilence of the 
year 166, and the outbreak, at the same time, of a long and 
desperate war on the northern frontiers. During these 
eventless years Latin literature seemed to die away. The 
classical impulse was exhausted; the attempts made to- 
wards founding a new Latin bore, for the time, little fruit. 
Before this period of exhaustion and reaction could come 
to a natural end, two changes of momentous importance 
had overtaken the world. The imperial system broke down 

284 Latin Literature. pll. 

under Commodus. All through the third century the civil 
organisation of the Empire jvas at the mercy of military 
adventurers. Twenty-five recognised emperors, besides a 
swarm of pretenders, most of them raised to the purple 
by mutinous armies, succeeded one another in the hundred 
years between Commodus and Diocletian. At the same 
time the Christian religion, already recognised under the 
Antonines as a grave menace to the very existence of the 
Empire, was extending itself year by year, rising more 
elastic than ever from each fresh persecution, and attract- 
ing towards itself all the vital forces which go to make 

The coalition between the Empire and the Church, which, 
after various tentative preliminaries, was finally effected by 
Constantine, launched the world upon new paths : and his 
transference of the main seat of empire to the shores of the 
Bosporus left Western Europe to pursue fragmentary and 
independent courses. The Latin-speaking provinces were 
falling away in great lumps. An independent empire of 
Britain had already existed for six or seven years under the 
usurper Carausius. After the middle of the fourth century 
Gaul was practically in possession of the Visigoths and the 
Salian Franks. During the reign of Honorius mixed hordes 
of Vandals, Suabians, and Alans poured through Gaul 
across the Pyrenees, and divided Spain into barbarian 
monarchies. A few years later the Vandals, called across 
the straits of Gibraltar by the treachery of Count Boniface, 
overran the province of Africa, and established a powerful 
kingdom, whose fleets, issuing from the port of Carthage, 
swept the Mediterranean and sacked Rome itself. Rome 
had, by the famous edict of Antoninus Caracalla, given 
the world a single citizenship ; to give organic life to that 
citizenship, and turn her citizens into a single nation, was 
a task beyond her power. So long as the Latin-speaking 
world remained nominally subject to a single rule, exercised 
in the name of the Senate and People of Rome, Latin 

VIII.] The World after Rome. 285 

literature had some slight external bond of unity ; after the 
Western Empire was shattered into a dozen independent 
kingdoms, the phrase almost ceases to have any real 
meaning. I>atin, in one form or another, remained an 
almost universal language; but we must speak henceforth 
of the literatures of France or Spain or Britain, whether the 
work produced be written in a provincial dialect or in the 
international language handed down from the Empire and 
preserved by the Church. 

For the Catholic Church now became the centre of 
European cohesion, and gave continuity and common life 
to the scattered remains of the ancient civilisation. Already, 
in the fifth century. Pope Leo the Great is a more important 
figure than his contemporary, Valentinian the Second, for 
thirty years the shadowy and impotent Emperor of the 
West. Christian literature had taken firm root while the 
classical tradition was still strong ; in the hands of men like 
Jerome and Augustine that tradition was caught up from 
the wreck of the Empire and handed down, not unimpaired, 
yet still in prodigious force and vitality, to the modem world. 

Latin is now no longer a universal language; and the 
direct influence of ancient Rome, which once seemed like 
an immortal energy, is at last, like all energies, becoming 
slowly absorbed in its own results. Yet the Latin language 
is still the necessary foundation of one half of human 
knowledge, and the forms created by Roman genius underlie 
the whole of our civilisation. So long as mankind look 
before and after, the name of Rome will be the greatest of 
those upon which their backward gaze can be turned. In 
Greece men first learned to be human : under Rome man- 
kind first learned to be civilised. Law, government, citizen- 
ship, are all the creations of the Latin race. At a thousand 
points we still draw directly from the Roman sources. 
The codes of Latin jurists are the direct source of all 
systems of modem law. The civic organisation which it 
was the great work of the earlier Roman Empire to spread 

286 Latin Literature, fill. 

throughout the provinces is the basis of our municipal 
institutions and our corporate social life. The names of 
our months are those of the Latin year, and the modem 
calendar is, with one slight alteration, that established by 
Julius Caesar. The head of the CathoHc Church is still 
called by the name of the president of a Republican college 
which goes back beyond the beginnings of ascertained 
Roman history. The architecture which we inherit from 
the Middle Ages, associated by an accident of history with 
the name of the Goths, had its origin under the Empire, 
and may be traced down to modem times, step by step, 
from the basiUca of Trajan and the palace of Diocletian. 
These are but a few instances of the inheritance we have 
received from Rome. But behind the ordered structure of 
her law and government, and the majestic fabric of her 
civilisation, lay a vital force of even deeper import; the 
strong grave Roman character, which has permanently 
heightened the ideal of human life. It is in their literature 
that the inner spirit of the Latin race found its most 
complete expression. In the stately structure of that 
imperial language they embodied those qualities which 
make the Roman name most abidingly great — honour, 
temperate wisdom, humanity, courtesy, magnanimity; and 
the civilised world still returns to that fountain-head, and 
finds a second mother-tongue in the speech of Cicero and 



ACClUSy !-«• • • • • • • 

Aelius, P 

Aelius, Sex. 

Aemilianus, Palladius Ru- 

tilius Taurus 

Afranius, L 

Africanus, P. Cornelius 

Scipio Aemilianus 
Agrippa, M. 
Albinus, Qodius . . . 
Alimentus, L. Cincius 


Andronicus, L. Livius 
Antias, Valerius 
Antipater, L. Caelius 
Antonius, M. 
ApoUinari^, see Sidonius. 

Apuleius, L. 

Arbiter, Petronius . . . 


Asconius, see Pedianus. 
Asper, Aemilius 
Atta, Quinctius 
Atticus, T. Pomponius 
Augustus, G. Julius Caesar 

Octavianus 121, 162 

Ausonius, Dec. Magnus . . . 265 






265, 271 





Bassus, Caesius ... . 

Bassus, Saleius 

Boethius, Anicius Manlius 

Torquatus Severinus . 

Brutus, M. Junius ... . 

Caecilius, Statins ... . 
Caecus, Ap. Claudius 




Caelius, see Antipater. 
Caelius, see Rufus. 

Caesar, G. Julius 

Caesar, Tib. Claudius Dm- 

sus Nero 

Calpurnius, see Siculus. 

Calvus, G. Licinius Macer 

Capitolinus, Julius . . . 

Cams, T. Lucretius 

Cassius, see Hemina. 

Cato, M. Porcius . . . 

Catullus, G. Valerius 

Celsus, A. Cornelius 

Cicero, M. TuUius . . . 

Cicero, Q. Tullius . . . 

Cincius, see Alimentus. 

Cinna, G. Helvius . . . 

Qaudianus, Qaudius 

Claudius, see Caecus. 

Clemens, Aurelius Prudentius 270 

Columella, L. Junius Mod- 

eratus 181 

Commodianus 257 

Corbulo, Domitius i&> 

Cornificius 36 

Crassus, L. Licinius ... 36 
Crispus, G. Sallustius ... 82 
Curtius, see Rufus. 
Cyprianus, Thascius Caecilius 254 







Donatus, Aelius 

Ennius, Q. ... 









Index of Authors. 


Fabius, see Pictor. 

Fannios, G 33 

Felix, Minucius 249 

Festus, Sex. Pompeios ... 165 

Flaccus, Q. Horatius . . . 106 

Flaccus, A^ Persius ... 178 

Flaccus, G. Valerias ... 190 

Flaccus, M. Verrius . . . 165 
Florus, Julius {or Lucius) 

Annaeus 229 

Frontinus, Sex. Julius ... 197 

Fronto, M. Cornelius . . . 234 

Frugi, L. Calpurnius Piso 28 

Gaius 229 

Gallicanus, Vulcacius . . . 263 

Gallus, G. Cornelius ... 122 

Gellius, A. 231 

Germanicus 157 

Gordianus, M. Antonius . . . 262 

Gracchus, G. Sempronius 36 

Gradus {or Grattius) ... 122 

Hemina, L. Cassius ... 28 

Hilarius 265, 271 

Hirdus, A 81 

Honoratus, Marius {or 

Maurus) Servius . . • 272 
Horace, see Flaccus. 
Hortalus, Q. Hortensius 65, 86 
Hortensius, see Hortalus. 

Hyginus, G. Julius 164 

Italicus, Tib. Catius Silius 191 

Javolenus, see Priscus. 

JulianuSy Salvius 229 

Junior, Lucilius 182 

Justinus, M. Junianus 163, 229 

Juvenalis, D. Junius ... 221 
Juvencus, G. Vettius Aquilinus 271 

Laberius, Dec 87 

Lactandus, L. Caecilius 

Firmianus 255, 258 

Laelius, G 33 

Lampridius, Aelius . . . 263 

Livius, see Andronicus. 

livius, T. ... 145 

Locanus, M. Annaeiis 

Lucilius, G 

Lucilius, see Junior. 
Lucredns, see Cams. 

Macer, Aemilius . . • 
Macer, G. Licinius 
Macer, see Calvus. 
Maecenas, G. Cilnius 
Manilius, G. {or M.) 
Manilius, M- '. ... 
Marcellinus, Ammianus 
Marius, see Maximus. 
Marius, see Victorinus. 
Maro, P. Vergilius . . . 
Mardalis, M. Valerius 
Matemus, Curiadus 

Madus, Gn 

Maurus, Terendanus 
Maximus, Marius . . . 
Maximus, Valerius . . . 
Mela, Pomponius . . . 
Melissus, Laevius . . . 
Minucius, see Felix. 

• • • 

• • • 














Naevius, Gn. 5 

Namatianus, Claudius*Ratilius 275 

Naso, P. Ovidius 135 

Nemesianus, M. Aurelius 

Olympius 262 

Nepos, Cornelius 84 

Oppius, G 81 

Ovid, see Naso. 

Pacuvius, M. 11 

Palaemon, Q. Remmius . . . 165 
Palladius, see Aemilianus. 

Papinianus, Aemilius . . . 260 

Paterculus, G. Velleius ... 163 

Paulinus, G. Suetonius ... 180 
Paulinus, Meropius Pondus 

Anicius 257 

Paulus (Diaconus) 165 

Paulus, Julius 261 

Pedianus, Q. Asconius . . . 204 

Pedo, Albinovanus i^y 

Persius, see Flaccus. 

Index of Authors, 



Fetronius, see Arbiter. 

Phaedrus 160 

Philus, L. Furius 33 

Pictor, Q. Fabius ... ... 28 

Piso, see Frugi. 

Plautus, T. Maccius ... 17 

Pliny, see Secundus. 

PoUio, G. Asinius ... 121, 162 

PoUio, Trebellius 263 

Pollio, Vitruvius 166 

Priscianus 278 

Priscus, Javolenus ... ... 229 

Probus, M. Valerius . . . 204 

Propertius, Sex 123 

Prudentius, see Clemens. 
Publilins, see Syrus. 

Quadrigarius, Q. Gaudius 36 

Quintilianus, M. Fabius ... 197 

Rabirius 157 

Renatus, Flavius Vegetius 273 

Rufus, M. Caelius 75 

Rufus, Q. Curtius 180 

Rufus, Ser. Sulpicius ... 75 

Rufus, L. Varius . . . 121, 122 
Rutilius, see Namatianus. 

Sabinus 157 

Sallust, see Crispus. 
Sammonicus, see Serenus. 
Scaevola, Q. Mucins 
Scipio, see Africanus. 
Secundus, G. Plinius (major) 195 

" " (minor) 225 

Seneca, L. Annaeus (major) 

" " (minor) 

Serenus, Q. Sammonicus 
Servius, see Honoratus. 

Severus, Cornelius 

Siculus, T. Calpurnius 
Sidonius, G. Sollius Apolli- 
nans ... ... ... 






Silius, see Italicus. 

Sisenna, L. Cornelius ... .37 

Spartianus, Aelius 263 

Statins, P. Papinius ... 187' 

Stella, L. Arruntius . . . 192 
Suetonius, see Tranquillus. 

Sulla, L. Cornelius ... 36 
Sulpicia (major) ... 130, 134 

Sulpicia (minor) 192 

Sulpicius, see Rufus. 

Syrus, Publilius 87 

Tacitus, Cornelius 205 

Terentianus, see Maurus. 

Terentius, P. 22 

Tertullianus, Q. Septimius 

Florens 251 

Tiberianus 263 

Tiberius, see Caesar. 

Tibullus, Albius 130 

Tiro, M. Tullius 87 

Titinius 15 

Tranquillus, G. Suetonius 229 

Tribonianus 278 

Trogus, Gn. Pompeius . . . 163 

Turpilius 16 

Ulpianus, Domitius . . . 260 

Valerius, see Antias. 
Valerius, see Flaccus. 
Valerius, see Maximus. 
Varius, see Rufus. 
Varro, M. Terentius ... 85 
Varro, P. Terentius (Atacinus) 87 
Vegetius, see Renatus. 
Verrius, see Flaccus. 

Victor, Aurelius 273 

Victor (Pope) 248 

Victorinus, G. Marius ... 271 
Virgil, see Maro. 
Vitruvius, see Pollio. 
Vopiscus, Flavius 263 

3 "! 


1 "^ 

flil f 


:■ i 








The University Series 



A series of volumes dealing with separate sections of Literature, 
Science, Philosophy, History and Art, and designed to supply the 
need so widely felt of authorized books for study and reference 
both by students and by the general public. 

Vdlvmea already jnibUshed: 

Tile Earth^s History. 

An Introdnction io Modem Geology. With maps and illnstrations. 
By R. D. BoBEBTS, Clare College, Cambridge. 12mo, $1.50 net. 

The Fhy^ology of the Senses* 

B^ John G. MoKbndbio and William Snodorass, of the Uniyersity 
ot Glasgow. With 127 illuBtrations. 12mo, $1.50 net. 

Chapters in Modem Botany* 

With illnstrationa. By Patbick Gbddes, Uniyergity College, Bondee. 
12mO) $1.25 net. 

The French Revolution* 

By C. R Mallet, Balliol College, Oxford. 12mo, $1.00 net. 

LogiCt Inductive and Deductive* 

With Diagrams. By William Minto, Uniyersity of Abeirdeen. 
12mo, $1.25 net. 

Outlines of English Literature* 

With Diagrams. By William Benton, Uniyendty of Si. Andrews. 
$1.00 net 

Greece in the Age of Pericles* 

By A. J. Gbant, Eing^s College, Cambridge. 12mo, $1.25 net 

The Jacobean Poets* 

By Edmund Gosse, Trinity College, Cambridge. 12mo, $1.00 net 

The English NoveL 

From its Origin to Sir W. Scott. By Professor Walter Raleigh, Uni- 
yersity College, LiyezpooL 12mo, $1.25 net 

liistory of Religion* 

A Sketch of Primitiye Religions Beliefs and Practices, and of the 
Great Systems. By Allan  Mbnzibs, Uniyersity of St Andrews. 
12mo, $1.50 net 

Latin IMentttte* j 

By J, W, AfAOKAiL, BaBiol CoUege, Orfox^ \^too.%V'2E>xtf5u | 


Shalopcfc Mad fdi FredeccHon In the Eoffiiii Dnunju 
By F. L. BOAB, Balliol OoUese, Oxford. 12mo, 91.50 nat 

Klfmenfi ol Pkydioloi^* 

By Gboboe Groom Robektson, late Ozote ProfeMcnr, Unireraitj Gal- 
ley, London. Edited from Notes of the Leotnrei ddirered at tiM 
CkkUege, 1870-1800, by C. A. FoLsr Rhts-Dayids. Iflkno^ #1.00 aek 

Elemeiiti ol Gcacral Pliiloiopliy. 

By Obobgb Gboom Robbrtson, late Grote ProfeMor, Unhrendty Ool- 
lege, London. Edited from Notes of the Leotnz« deliyered at tht 
CoUege, 1870-1892, by C. A. Folbt Rhts-Dayidb 13mo, #1.26 nai 

The Uie and Ahuie of BAoney* 

By Dr. W. Cunbiboham, Trinity College, Cambrid;,e. ]2nio, #1.00 Ml 

The Fine Arti. 

With illustratiouB. By G. Baldwin Bhowb, Unr/ersity of EdinbordL 
12mo, #L0O net 

The PhlloMphy of the Beatitifuh Iti Hbtory 

By William Knight, Uniyersity of St Andrews. 12mo^ #1.00 net 

The Phlloiophy ol the Beautifult Itt Theory and its Rektion to ths 

By William Knioht, Uniyersity of St Andrews. 12mo, #1.00 net 

English Colonisation and Empire* 

With maps. 
12mo. #1.00 net 

With maps. By A. Galdbcott, St John's College, Camhridga, 
'^ , #1.00 1 

The Literature of France* 

By H. G. Kbbmb, Oxford. 13mo, #1.00 net 

The Realm of Nature* 

An Outline of Physiography. With 19 mi^ and 68 illnatrationa. By 
Hugh R. Mill, Uniyersity of Edinburgh. 12mo, #1.50. 

The Elements of Ethics* 

By John H. Muibhead, Balliol College, Oxford. 12mo, #1.00 n«i. 

The Study <^ Animal Life* 

With illustrations. By T. Abthub Thomson, School of Medidatti 
Edinburgh. ISmo, #1.50 net 

A Short (fistory ol Astrono m y* 

By Abthub Bebbt, M.A. Illustrated. 12mo, #1.00 net 

Other VoJhAiaea %a v^f^»fi/rcX^at^